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Awarded the Thirlwall Prize, the Seeley Medal, 

and the Gladstone Prize, 


I 8 5'<i 8 9 





I WISH to take the opportunity of thanking the 
many people whose ready help made the work 
research possible: the officials of the Newspaper 
Depository, the British Museum, Hendon; Mr J. 
trker Brewis, Secretary of the Newcastle Society 
of Antiquarians; and the Durham Miners' Associa- 
tion, which not only allowed me to make use of its 
records, but for two months placed a comfortable 
office at my disposal. By everybody, clerk and official 
alike, at the Miners' Hall, Durham, I was given a 
hospitable welcome, and ready assistance. In par- 
ticular my thanks are due to T. H. Cann, Esq., J.P., 
Corresponding Secretary of the Durham Miners' 
Association, to whom I owed my introduction to the 
Society; and to Mr R. Gray, the Chief Clerk, who 
took great pains to procure for me books of records, 
to explain them to me, and to supplement them 
with personal information which his forty years' con- 
nection with the union has given him. It was he 
who read over and corrected my manuscript, as a 
check on its accuracy, a voluntary kindness for which 
it is hard to find adequate thanks. 

E. W. 

November 17, 1922. 










SOURCES ....... 





I2 5 












~T)RIMITIVE coal-mining required no specially 
JL skilled body of workmen. Where the seams came 
to the surface on the sides of the hills coal could 
easily be won, and where by some chance shallow 
seams were discovered they were exposed by digging 
huge open trenches. It was in the early days of the 
thirteenth century, when the surface coal was almost 
all exhausted, that the pitman appeared. The name 
in the north-country the collier is still a " pitman " is 
at once a witness to the antiquity of the miner's 
calling, and a memory of his earliest method of work. 
He dug down until the seam was reached. Then the 
pit was widened in every direction, until the un- 
supported roof would stand no longer. The coal was 
carried to the surface in baskets, the pitman climbed 
up his short ladder, took it away, and dug a new pit. 
In 1256 deserted workings of this kind were so 
lumerous near Newcastle that it was dangerous for 

stranger to ride into the town. 

The church was the pioneer in all mining enterprise, 
[t needed lime for its building, and coal for the lime- 
:ilns. Soon the pitmen, servants for the most part of 
the abbeys or of that powerful prince the Bishop of 
>urham, began to work deeper seams. They learned 
from the lead-miners a new word, shaft. They re- 
placed the ladder by a windlass, a skep, and a rope, 
w i 


In the fourteenth century sinking costs varied from 
55. 6d. to 405., and leases which mention in turn roof 
timber, surface damage, and a water-gate, shew that 
regular workings were driven out from the shaft. But 
there is little mention of the pitmen. During the 
troubles of the Black Death, Bishop Hatfield issued 
a warrant to John de Walgrave to seize workmen 
and coal-bearers for his needs in Durham. And from 
time to time officials are named. The pits were from 
the first in the care of a viewer, who may at one time 
have been a forest official. There were banksmen, and 
once a banksman was promoted to a surveyor's place, 
and given power to imprison his workmen. In one 
place there was a clerk. The mines had plainly in- 
creased in size when in 1487 the monks of Finchale 
spent fy. 155. 6d. on a pump and its necessary horses. 
It is probable that the first ship-load of coal was 
sent from Newcastle to the Thames in the reign of 
Henry III, but it was not until the later days of 
Elizabeth that the coal trade grew to any great im- 
portance. In the sixteenth century chimneys became 
common, and as the forests of the south country 
disappeared fuel for the needs of London became in- 
creasingly hard to find. Elizabeth's Privy Council 
received a complaint that the coal-owners were 
greedily raising the price of their commodity. One 
man was reputed to have made 50,000 from a single 
coal lease. A pamphlet has preserved the reply of 
the Newcastle Corporation. Freights had risen, and 
the coal-owners had been compelled by the high cost 
of living to raise the wages of their workmen. For 


those pore men who work ye Colles under ye grounde, 
having no other means to sustain ye necessities of them- 
selves and families, then yr owne labours, are now com- 
pelled to paie i id for the grasse of a Cowe, during the 
summer season, wch heretofore they were accustomed to 
hier for 3d or 4d, wch with the darth of other victualles, 
is ye cause, they cannot sustain yr li ves with the allowance 
of yr former wages 1 . 

In 1602 the Newcastle Company of Hostmen was 
incorporated to regulate the coal trade. At that time 
the annual export to London was 190,000 tons. There 
were 200 hoys sailing between the Tyne and the 
Thames, and the coal dues brought the town of 
Newcastle a yearly income of 10,000. It was as a 
nursery of seamen and a source of revenue that the 
trade attracted the attention of the government. 
The Hostmen were among the culprits whom the 
Long Parliament attacked, those monopolists who 
"sheltered themselves under the guise of a corpora- 
tion." But of the pitmen little is heard. An account 
book for 1530 shews that five hewers were paid, 
jointly, 2id. a day, while a man working with them 
removing stone received only 3^. They were no longer 
bondservants. Dr Kaye, the founder of Gonville and 
Cains College, Cambridge, noticed that some of the 
pits had " an unwholesome vapour " which would have 
destroyed the "hired labourers" had they not fled, 
warned of its presence by the blue flame at their lamps 2 . 
It is said that it was the enormous extension of the 
trade at this time which first made the employment of 

1 Certain Matters relating to the Excessive price of Coals in 
the Time of Elizabeth. 

9 Joannis Caii Britanni de Ephemera Liber, 1535. 



women necessary, and to explain some curious sur- 
vivals of folk-lore an antiquarian once suggested that 
the Tynedale mosstroopers, driven from their home 
in 1572, took to the pits. 

James I made it known that he did not share 
Elizabeth's dislike for "the foule smoke of the sea- 
cole" and, in the boom which followed, there were 
heard threats of rapid exhaustion of the supplies. 
The coal leases were almost all in the hands of an 
association which, through the society of Hostmen, 
conducted for two hundred years a war with the 
London consumer. Perhaps it was jealousy which, 
in 1603, led the Newcastle Corporation to make com- 
plaint that the new society had " made congregation " 
among other things for "the abridging of the wages 
of the poore labourers" 1 , for to some extent the 
Hostmen protected the pitmen. In 1662 they put a 
stop to the practice of paying wages in corn "at rates 
farr above the markett price" 2 . Four years later they 
closed all the pits, as a protest against the action of 
the Lord Mayor of London, who had imposed a scale 
of fixed prices. To relieve the "poore workpeople, like 
to come to extreme want" 3 they at once imposed a 
tax of a penny a chalder on all coal sold from stock. 

Meantime, the tale of recorded accidents had begun, 
with an entry in 1618 in the Register of St Mary's, 
Newcastle, "Richard Backus, burnt in a pit." In 
1658 two men were drowned by an inrush of water 

1 The Company of the Hostmen of Newcastle (Surtees Sex;.), 
1901, pp. 21 and 22. 
8 Ibid. Aug. 1 5th, 1662. * Ibid. May 8th, 1666. 


1 The Oppressed Man's Outcry, 1651. (Tracts relating to the 
ivil War.) 


"who must otherwise be beggars and starve." There 
is an account of the sinking of a pit, and of the duties 
and wages of every kind of workman and official. 
The first men mentioned are the sinkers. Their pay 
must have seemed high to the stranger, for the author 
at once begins an explanation of the skill their work 
demanded. In addition to the danger to the sinker 
himself he might be maimed, and rendered for ever 
incapable of working, he might be blinded by a 
splinter of stone, he might even be killed a poor 
workman would blunt and break tools, or "iooo 
might be spent, and then by an ignorant man be 
blasted by a strong blast" 1 . The sinker was no com- 
mon labourer, but a man who understood the " nature 
of stone, and stythe, and surfeit" 2 . 

A method of sinking through water-bearing strata 
had already been devised. By lining the shaft with 
wooden staves, behind which were stuffed uncured 
sheep-skins, any ordinary difficulty could be sur- 
mounted, but feeders, the powerful underground 
springs tapped from time to time in mining opera- 
tions, were a mystery to the Compleat Collier. 
Contrary to the nature of water, they rose per- 
pendicularly. He was driven to conclude that they 
were fed from the sea, which lay like a fountain head 
high above the land. Water was the miner's great 
foe. To thirty fathoms, a hand pump would remove 
it; beyond that, a horse pump was necessary. There 

1 J. C., The Compleat Collier, or the Whole Art of Sinking, 
Getting, and Working Coal Mine. (Newcastle, 1708.) 


was too much reason to fear fire about a pit for the 
rumours of a fire pump to be welcome. A stronger 
pump was badly needed, and its inventor would meet 
with "such encouragement as would keep his coach 
and six," but fire was no trustworthy servant. As 
soon as the shaft was sunk a horse engine was required, 
with four relays of horses. To stint expense here was 
false economy, for if through lack of horses the pit 
stopped "the workmen, or at least some of them, 
will expect as much from their day's work, though 
it want a quarter of its quantity." 

The chief official was the viewer, who was paid 
155. to 2os. a week, but as he was a skilled surveyor 
and could take three or four pits under his charge 
it was not an excessive wage. The overman, who 
placed the men at work, and who was actually in 
charge of the pit, drew only 8s. a week. There is 
no mention of the earnings of the corver, the man 
who repaired the large wicker baskets in which the 
coal was drawn to the surface, but his work was very 
important. Without his care, by the damage they 
received in the shaft, the corves would lose an inch 
a day in height, and fall rapidly in content. Of the 
two banksmen one was paid i6d. a day, his assistant 
2d. less. They kept an account of the coals raised, 
setting aside the token, or small stick, by which each 
hewer below marked his corves. Badly filled corves 
were allowed to stand unemptied, until the hewers 
came out of the pit. Then the guilty man was repri- 
manded, and on occasion fined 6d. for his fraud or 
neglect. There were two classes of workmen under- 


ground, the hewers and the barrowmen. The hewers, 
who with pick and shovel, maul and wedge, won the 
coal, were paid I2d. or 14^. a day. But it was usual 
to "agree with the hewers by the score oi corves, by 
chance lod. or I2d. a score, according to the tenderness 
or hardness of the coal, and what the mine will 
afford." For when the hewers were paid day wages 
each man might get but 13 or 15 corves a shift, but 
when they were paid by output " Good Hand " meant 
"Good Hire." It was in the payment of the barrow- 
men that the chief expense of coal-mining lay. It was 
their duty to fill the corves, haul them to the shaft, 
and hook them on the cable. For this they received 
22d. a day, and as the workings advanced their 
demands increased. When it was an uphill journey 
to the shaft the barrowmen insisted on an additional 
payment of 2d. a day, and there was plain advantage 
in working upwards along a seam. 

The dangers of the pit might justify the high wage 
but it was the profit of the owner which paid them. 
"For I have observed," said the Compleat Collier, 
"that where profit doth not arise, the wages are paid, 
though we venture our lives never so much, but 
grudgingly, if at all." As much skill was necessary 
to keep down the working costs as to overcome 
natural obstacles. The half yard seam was too low 
to work. The hev r ers and barrowmen would some- 
times confederate together underground "and some- 
times be so roguish, as to set big coals hollow at the 
Corfe bottom, and cover them over with small," and, 
where supervision was lacking, defraud the owner of 
great sums in wages. He on his side could make a 


great saving by working in winter, when many of 
the small pits were idle. "For then the labourers, 
rather than be idle, are prevailed upon, as is cus- 
tomary, to lower their wages." 

Custom has long been the miners' guide, though 
now the men rely more on their own strength in 
dispute than on "the generosity of the owner." But 
from the tone of the comments on wages and working 
practice it is plain that the pitmen were in small 
fear of oppression or underpayment. By what means 
the barrowmen procured their periodic increase in 
wage is not explained, but there is no hint that the 
demands might be resisted. All the viewers' care 
was needed to keep down the working costs, but it 
is never suggested that the wages, admittedly so high 
as to need explanation, might be reduced. 

It is easy to continue the story of the technical 
improvements in mining. There are a great many 
"Views," or surveys, of collieries, the older ones part 
picture, part plan, the later ones as exact as the 
compass could make them. Often a written descrip- 
tion accompanies the plan, with calculations, and 
estimates, and well-stated arguments for some sug- 
gested course of action. The various costs, the profits 
to be expected, the difficulties to be overcome, are 
^viewed in turn. In 1712 the invention of Newcomen's 
r ire-engine provided the long desired pumping power. 

seam much below 60 fathoms would have defeated 
the Compleat Collier. In 1786 coal was reached at 
Wallsend at a depth of 600 feet. As the depth in- 
creased, and with it the cost of sinking, it became 
necessary to work a much larger area from one shaft. 


To reduce the cost of transport horses were taken 
down the mines, and wooden tramways laid in the 
more extensive workings, similar to those which had 
long been common on the surface. Boys could drive 
the horses, and push small sledges on the ways, and 
about 1750, when the employment of boys became 
common, the barrowmen lost their pride of place 
as the best paid class in the pits. The boy putters 
who supplanted them shared neither their name nor 
their prosperity. 

But it was not until 1780, when the steam engine 
was already supplanting it, that the old Newcomen 
pumping engine was adapted for drawing coal. To 
get the coal out of the deep pits was a serious diffi- 
culty. In some places a bucket filled with water was 
used as a counter poise to the corf, in others the 
pump water, discharged from a height, drove the 
wheel of a windlass. But horse gins long remained 
the chief winding gear, and though in 1780 a square 
iron tub replaced the corf in some collieries it was 
an improvement which few viewers adopted. The 
men rode up and down the shaft with a leg through 
the loop of the rope. Even in 1840 children ascended 
and descended clinging to one another "like a string 
of onions" 1 , 

It was the increased capital cost of the deep shafts 
which made it important to get as much coal as 
possible from each seam. The old miners used to 
drive parallel galleries and join them with cross cuts, 

1 J. R. Leifchild, Children's Employment Commission (1842), 
P- 545- 


leaving large square pillars to support the roof. Some- 
times as much as half the coal remained permanently 
underground. Later viewers saw that if they left 
larger pillars most of the wasted coal could be re- 
moved by a second working. But it was not until 
the nineteenth century was well advanced that it 
became the rule to attempt to remove the whole of 
the coal. The traditional method of working in the 
north-country, "Bord and Pillar," was an improve- 
ment on the miner's earliest method. The hewers 
worked singly, or in pairs, at the head of a gallery, 
or the side of a pillar. This method of working had had 
an influence mental, as well as technical. Each man 
had a direct interest in his own forward progress, he 
was neither checked nor encouraged by the speed of 
visible companions. He worked for the coal-owner, 
never as one of a gang engaged by a small contractor. 
The "Butty" system has never had a hold in the 
northern coal field. Officials were appointed who 
visited each man at his work, but the hewer visited 
from time to time developed a far greater skill and 
self-reliance than did a man who worked constantly 
under the eye of a foreman. Until very recent years 
the north-country pitman had an unrivalled fame, 
and even now he is apt to look upon the miners of 
other districts as navvies rather than miners proper. 
Meantime the isolation of the hewer became the 
foundation of an exceptionally high standard of pit 
discipline. It made necessary an unwatched obedience 
to orders. It was the first cause of a minute division 
of labour which is still unknown in other districts. 


And four times a year lots were drawn to determine 
the place in which each hewer should work. This 
practice, known as " cavilling," has often been blamed 
as the foundation of the gambling habits of the pit- 
men, but it must often have assisted to maintain 
industrial peace. A good place, a bad place, came 
by fortune, not by the allotment of the officials. 

In the old small pits there was a simple method 
of avoiding disastrous explosions. At the sign of gas 
the men left the pit. But in the deeper mines, large 
in area as they were, with immense tracts of exhausted 
workings or "goaf" upon which the roof was always 
settling, gas was always present. About 1730 the 
first attempts at ventilation were made. A furnace 
was built at the bottom of one shaft, its heat created 
an upward current of air, and as the pressure de- 
creased in the workings, cold fresh air rushed down 
the second shaft. If the mine had but one shaft it 
was split into two by a wooden partition, known as 
the brattice. Not the least terror of an old mine was 
the descent through the smoke and hot foul air of 
the upcast shaft. In the eighteenth century two 
viewers at the Whitehaven collieries, Carlisle Spedding 
and his son John, slowly improved the system of 
ventilation. By doors and partitions they led the 
cold air into the furthest parts of the mines. But the 
pits " fired " with a frequency which is the best witness 
to the courage and perseverance of the men who 
worked them. The achievements of the Whitehaven 
viewers rendered the pits workable rather than safe. 

But still there is far less to be told of the pitmen 


than of the pits. The names common among them 
shew that they were recruited from the small farmers 
whom the agricultural revolution displaced. About 
1780 the employment of women in the north-country 
pits ceased. Almost the last mention of a woman 
underground is in an account of a shaft accident. 
In 1772, 

a woman employed in putting at South Biddick (was) 
riding up one of the pits (when) the other hook, in passing, 
caught her cloathes. The weight of the rope forced her 
out of the loop, and she fell to the bottom of the shaft 1 . 

At what date it became customary to hire the pit- 
men by a written agreement for a whole year's service 
is not known. A copy of a "bond" for the year 1703, 
made between the High Sheriff of Durham and the 
hewers of Benwell, is from its form obviously not the 
first of its kind. There is mention in turn of a price 
for each score of corves hewn, of an additional price 
for forward progress, and of exceptional payment " at 
the judgment of the viewer" for work of unusual 
lifficulty. Such payment, known as " consideration," 
ras a very treasured privilege in the north, where 
it survived until the invention of the statutory 
minimum wage. In the pictures of houses, by which 
the old plans represent a village, there are seen the 
familiar long rows of low cottages, with one window 
ind one chimney to each door. Each cottage can 
lave contained at most two rooms, probably in the 
majority of cases only one. It must have been very 
early in the eighteenth century that a free house 

1 Newcastle Journal, Feb. 8th, 1772. 


became part of the hewer's wage, but the pitman's 
coal was hardly free in the days when 6d. a fother 
meant half a day's wage. But such agreed payments 
have a knack of standing still, despite alterations in 
wages and the value of money. Until late in the 
nineteenth century sixpence a fortnight remained the 
customary "off- take" from the miner's wage for his 
load of coal. Until 1740 the average daily pay of the 
hewer was about is. 2d. It rose in that year to rather 
less than is. Sd. , and remained at that figure until 1790. 
Mining engineers find in the long narrow stone 
drifts sufficient witness of the skill of the early pit- 
men. We can guess how laborious must have been 
their life when bodily strength and perseverance were 
their only weapons against natural obstacles. Gun- 
powder for blasting rock came into use in 1740, but 
it was not for many years that the miner dared to 
use powder for getting coal. After the face of the 
seam had been undercut with the pick the hanging 
mass was brought down by driving in wedges. 

Here, agyen, had awd langsyners 
Mony a weary, warkin' byen, 
Now unknawn te coaly-Tyners, 
A' bein' mell-and-wedge wark then. 

Aw've bray'd for hours at woody coal, 

Wi' airms myest droppin frae the shouther 1 , 

says the old pitman of his labours, and the work of 
the putters was as hard until the invention of plates, 
the iron rails which in 1808 took the place of the 
wooden "trams." 

1 T. Wilson, The Pitman's Pay. 


Hobbes could well have learned his opinion of the 
life of savage man, "nasty, brutish, and short," from 
a study of the pitman. In the long rows of the colliery 
villages he lived almost unknown to the outside world. 
In the eighteenth century a visitor to the north found 

le pitmen 

rude, bold, savage set of beings, apparently cut off 
rom their fellow men in their interest and feelings, 
'hey all have the same vocation, and stand out as a 
turdy band apart from the motley mixture of common 
mmanity 1 . 

Newspaper advertisements almost always describe 
them as of middle height, some 5 feet 7 inches, and 
slender build, with round shoulders. And inevitably 
there follow two phrases "wearing a striped waist- 
coat" and "walks like a pitman." Very few of them 
seem ever to have left the pits. Such boys from the 
collieries near the coast who ran away to sea quickly 
returned, for they found a sailor's life harder and 
more dangerous than the one they had left, and its 
discomforts more pronounced. And, in the drunken 
sprees which accompanied a trip to the town, pitmen 
occasionally fell into the clutches of the recruiting 
sergeant. In 1756 the artillery was so much in need 
of miners that it advertised in the Newcastle news- 
papers for them, offering los. a week as pay, with 
the prospect of 2s. a day as corporals, and half a 
crown as sergeants. 

From the first the boys seem to have worked 14 
to 18 hours a day, though in the recollections of 

1 R. N. Boyd, Coal Pits and Pitmen, 1895. 


the old men work and absence from home seem to 
be synonymous terms. As long as the hewers had 
to break down the coal with maul and wedge they 
worked in pairs, staying below rather more than 
12 hours. Except in the very deep pits they kept no 
regular hours, but came away when they were satisfied 
with their day's work. When blasting came into use 
the two men still remained "marrows," working 
together and sharing their wages. But they worked 
alone, the second man coming to the face to relieve 
his fellow during the late hours of the morning, though 
it was many years before the man in the "fore-shift" 
left immediately he was relieved. Sometimes he stayed 
for as much as two hours, for the hewers measured 
their work rather by their forward progress than by 
time. Still, blasting reduced the hewers' hours from 
12 to roughly 8 though the rest of the pit's crew 
remained below the whole day. But before the in- 
dustrial changes brought a steady demand for coal 
the pits worked very irregularly. There was a holiday 
of about a month at Christmas, chiefly because at 
that season the colliers were kept by adverse winds 
in the Tyne. To mark the closing of the pit the last 
hewn corf of coals was drawn up the shaft covered 
with lighted candles, and the hewers gave Christmas 
gifts to the lads who took away their coals. Two or 
three times a year the lads proclaimed a "gaudy 
day " and kept holiday, as for instance on the morning 
on which they first heard the cuckoo. 

Slack times might bring low pay, but the hewer 
was secure against starvation. By his "bond" he 


was "Upheld," that is, paid an agreed sum each 
fortnight, work or no work. But little excitement 
came to brighten life in the pit villages. There were 
weddings, celebrated with much eating and drinking 
and the firing of guns. There were christenings. And 
there was the fortnightly orgy at the Pay. Beyond 
this there was little but the rejoicings at the success 
of a new sinking and the processions which accom- 
panied the first load of coals from the pit-head to 
the staithe. In 1802 the opening of Percy Main, won 
without the loss of a single life, was celebrated in a 
manner which long remained in local memory. The 
procession to the ship was headed by the master 
sinker, bearing a trophy. After him walked the 
sinkers, four and four, the smiths, and the enginemen. 
Then, accompanied by a band, and surrounded with 
colours, came the wagon of coals, on which sat a well- 
dressed lady to represent "the genius of the mine." 
There followed viewers, four and four, pitmen with 
cockades in their hats, wagonmen, enginemen, and 
itaithe men. To a salute of artillery, and a triple 

>und of cheers, the company drank to the success 
)f Percy Main, and as the coal slid down the spout 

ito the ship the band played the traditional song 
of the coal trade, "The Keel Row." The gentry, to 
the number of 150, sat down to dinner, and the pit- 

len went off "to be feasted with beef and plum 
pudding, strong beer and punch, and such of them 
as were sober, to finish off the night with music and 
dancing" 1 . 

1 Newcastle Comant, Sept. nth, 1802. 


The pitmen were thought a violent, drunken, 
blasphemous race. They kept their fighting dogs and 
their cocks, they gambled, and delighted in per- 
forming feats of strength and endurance for wagers. 
In the midst of a blizzard " a one-eyed pitman, known 
by the name of Blenkar Will, undertook for the 
trifling sum of half a crown to go a mile along the 
public road, from Chester-le-Street to Sunderland, 
stark naked, which he performed in seven minutes" 1 . 
But Wesley, who on his first visit to the north was sur- 
prised at "so much drunkenness, cursing and swearing, 
even from the mouths of children, as never do I 
remember to have heard before," found their state 
was far less due to natural wickedness, than to neglect. 
The next time he came he 

had a great desire to visit a little village called Plessey, 
about ten measured miles north of Newcastle. It is in- 
habited by colliers only, such as have been always in the 
first rank for savage ignorance, and wickedness of every 
kind. Their grand assembly used to be the Lord's Day, 
on which men, women, and children met together to play 
at chuck-ball, and spun-farthing 2 . 

Yet, in 1757, these people had become a pattern to 
all the societies in England. They had "no jars of 
any kind among them, but with heart and soul pro- 
voke one another to love and good works" 3 . 

It was during the eighteenth century that the pit- 
man attained the height of his outward splendour. 
Though the full rig is rarely seen outside the small 
Northumberland villages the traditional working 

1 Newcastle Courant, Feb. 5th, 1814. 

1 Wesley's Journal, vol. in, p. 71. 3 Ibid. vol. iv, p. 220. 


clothes are not yet abandoned a pair of short flannel 
trousers, white or blue checked; a blue checked shirt, 
with a red tie; a jacket to match the trousers; stout, 
square-toed shoes, and long knitted stockings of grey 
wool. But Methodist piety replaced the splendour 
of the holiday clothes by the respectability of Sunday 
blacks. The old-fashioned pitman wore his hair long, 
on week-days tied in a queue, on Sundays spread over 
shoulders. At either temple was a curl, carefully 
led in paper over a small piece of lead, so that 
would dangle in fantastic shape down his cheeks. 
Over a white shirt of fine linen was drawn a pair of 
blue velvet breeches. Next came long stockings, of 
pink, purple, or blue, clocked up to the knee; next, 
buckled shoes. The pitman's coat was of shiny blue, 
with an even brighter lining. His hat had several 
bands of yellow ribbon, into which were stuck flowers. 
But his greatest glory was his waistcoat of brocade, 
his "posy jacket," cut short to shew an inch or two 
of shirt above the waist-band. 

When aw put on my blue coat that shines se, 

My jacket wi posies sae fine, se, 

My sark sic sma' threed, man, 

My pigtail se greet, man, 

Odd smash, what a buck was Bob Cranky. 

Blue Stockings, white clocks, and reed garters, 

Yellow breeks, and my shoen wi' lang quarters, 

Aw myed wor bairns cry, 

Eh ! Sartees i Ni ! Ni ! 

Sic very fine things had Bob Cranky 1 . 

1 "Bob Cranky's Size Sunday," The Newcastle Songster. 



UNTIL the reform in the franchise gave the work- 
man political importance he had small oppor- 
tunity of asserting his industrial claims. He was 
hampered at every turn by the Combination Acts, 
by the law of Master and Servant, and by an anti- 
quated and partial interpretation of the common law. 
The miner had other obstacles in his way, chief of 
which was the Yearly Bond, the written agreement 
which laid down the terms of his service. Except 
during his few days of freedom at the annual hirings 
the pitman who refused to work was risking arrest 
and imprisonment for breach of contract. Fourteen 
days in jail was the regular punishment for indisci- 
pline, and almost every number of the old Newcastle 
newspapers three at least have been published since 
the days of the Georges heads its front page with 
an offer of reward for the apprehension of some 
absconding pitman. When it is remembered that as 
late as 1882 the government inspector of mines sug- 
gested that all mining cases should be tried by a 
stipendiary magistrate, the contempt of the pitmen 
for the justice they received in more revolutionary 
times can be well imagined 1 . Coroner and sheriff, 

1 Report ofH.M. Inspector of Mines, Newcastle District, 1882. 
And also, J. R. Leif child, Children's Employment Commission 
(1842), p. 520. 


magistrate and grand jury, even the petty jury of 
lick-spittle tradesmen, were all on the side of the 
owners, and they seldom troubled to conceal a bias 
which was at once a badge of respectability and a 
witness to sound political principle. 

But neither the fear of imprisonment nor the 
certainty of speedy starvation could keep the pitmen 
from strikes and combinations. It is a tradition that 
the first widespread outbreak occurred in 1740, and 
that it won an advance in wages most commonly 
estimated at 30 per cent. 1 The number of advertise- 
ments for the arrest of incendiaries who were 
burning the pit-head machinery suggests that in 
1747 discontent was still rife. Eighteen years later 
riot and destruction swept along the whole Tyne 
valley. Trade was booming and employment was 
plentiful. The coal-owners were afraid that competi- 
tion for pitmen would drive up wages, or that their 
men would be enticed from the deep and more 
dangerous pits. They met and discussed an agree- 
ment by which managers were to bind no new men 
who came to them unprovided with a certificate of 
dismissal from their last colliery. In the middle of 
August, long before the binding day, the pitmen 
struck. Six hundred ships, and a hundred thousand 
men, miners, sailors, keel-men, staithe men, even the 
London coal-whippers, were laid idle 2 . In those 
days "the course of a pitman's steek was traced in a 
long line of wreckage, as the men proceeded from 

1 J. Bell Simpson, Capital and Labour in Coal-Mining. 
* Annual Register, 1765. 


Colliery to Colliery, and destroyed the winding gear 
at the surface." The pitmen upheld their reputation 
for ungovernable violence, setting fire to the pit- 
heaps and caring little that here and there the mines 
themselves were destroyed. The masters published a 
denial that they had made any agreement. The men 
replied that an agreement was known to exist, and 
that the rise of prices had made their poverty too 
great for them to submit to a more rigorous bond. 
In October they returned to work, in part at least 
victorious. If their wage remained unaltered it is 
seldom that a pitman's strike has been unaccompanied 
by a wage -demand they retained their freedom of 
movement. In 1767 there was a little noticed sequel 
of the strike. An amended Malicious Injuries to 
Property Act made definite mention of "setting fire 
to mines." The north-country coal-owners were not 
without influence in the unreformed parliament. 

If the recollections of the old pitmen are to be 
trusted, at the binding day of 1800 there was a short, 
indecisive strike. In the local newspapers there is no 
record of disturbance, but the newspapers themselves 
admit that at the request of the owners they had for 
some little time ceased to mention mining matters. 
It is significant that in 1800 the coal-owners were 
provided with a new legal weapon against their men. 
An act "for the security of collieries and mines, and 
the better regulation of colliers and miners" made 
mention of "the great fraud of stacking coal. . .by 
which colliers obtain money beyond what they earn." 
And it punished with imprisonment, or fine of 405., 


breaches of the yearly agreement. It was an act 
which was often to be of use in later troubles. 

The first strike of which we have any complete 
iccount occurred in 1810. The owners proposed to 

lange the binding time from October to April: 

>r, as October was the period of the greatest trade, when 
stock of coals was accumulated in the different markets, 
a strike or stoppage at that period was extremely in- 
convenient and objectionable 1 . 

Perhaps the alteration of the binding time points to 
a memory of frequent strikes, perhaps the owners 
wished to make some change in the bond which they 
knew would be resisted. It is impossible to separate 
the unrest of the times from the abnormal wage 

The custom of giving two or three guineas per hewer as 
binding and bounty money had crept into the trade, but 
in consequence of the extraordinary demand for coals 
...during the year (1804)... a general scramble for 
hewers and putters took place. . . .The fears of procuring 
the necessary supply of men were industriously magnified 
to such a degree that from 12 to 14 guineas a man was 
given on the Tyne, and 18 guineas on the Wear, and 
progressive exorbitant bounties were paid to putters, 
drivers, and irregular workmen. Drink was lavished in 
the utmost profusion, and every sort of extravagance 
perpetrated. Nor did the evil end here, for a positive 
increase in rates and wages was established, to the extent 
of from 30% to 40 % 2 . 

As a natural result there was an inrush of strangers 
to the trade. Over production brought down prices, 

1 Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, 1844, 
P- 30. 

2 Ibid. pp. 27 and 28. 


at a time when high wages were giving the men 
extravagant tastes. The bounties were gradually dis- 
continued, and wages fell to the old level. 

Whatever may have been their reasons, and natural 
conservatism was in those days reason sufficient, the 
pitmen firmly refused to accept the change in the 
binding day. They struck, and the struggle lasted 
seven weeks. In the end the owners appealed to the 
law and won. At one time there were so many pit- 
men in jail that 300 had to be confined in the 
episcopal stables at Bishop Auckland 1 . Doubtless 
the men had signed the bond first in ignorance of its 
conditions, and then too late had begun their resist- 
ance. Among the prisoners must have been most of 
the leaders, for mediators, among them a Captain 
Davis of the Carmarthen militia, in vain attempted 
to persuade them to a compromise. The desired change 
was made. As an old pitman said in later days, the 
men lost the strike by an accident. Such memories 
of a compromise as persisted suggest that the renewal 
of the bounties was promised. That the men were not 
satisfied is clear, for next year the trouble threatened 
again. The Rev. M. Newfield, a well-known magis- 
trate who had striven hard for peace the year before, 
called a meeting of the owners at Chester-le-Street a . 
His proposals of a conference with the men were at 
first unwelcome. The owners disliked the suggestion 
of a bargain with men who had no legal right to 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham 

(i873), PP- 13, 14- 

2 Ibid. p. 15. 


combine, and whose actions, in days when the French 
Revolution was a vivid memory, seemed to promise 
widespread social disorder. But in the end they were 
persuaded to receive a deputation of two men from 
each colliery, and a bond, acceptable to both parties, 
was drawn up. If 1810 had brought defeat, 1811 was 
in the moral sense a memorable victory. 

1825 was a year of activity, much of which centred 
round Hetton. There a man named Macintosh at- 
tempted to found a co-operative store, but the opposi- 
tion of the owners and the distrust and ignorance of 
the men drove him in disappointment to America 1 . 
The unrest of the times is reflected in the sentences 
which the alarmed magistrates inflicted on defaulting 
pitmen; the traditional fourteen days imprisonment 
became for a time two months. Meantime Thomas 
Hepburn had founded the first miners' union "for 
the procuring of higher wages" says a contemporary 
writer 2 . There were many local strikes, outcome of 
the men's attempts to restrict their output. Restric- 
ion and union were for a long time to be synonymous 
the minds of most of the pitmen, and indeed of 
lany of the owners. But restriction at that time 
tad no far-sighted political intent. It kept the young 
len from the exhaustion and premature enfeeble- 
ment which was the price they paid for their pride 
in their strength. It saved the old and the weak 
from dangerous comparisons. It was only here and 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
pp. 16-17. 

2 Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, p. 33. 


there that a man thought of restriction as a remedy 
against unemployment; its direct advantages were 
sufficient arguments in its favour. The men's con- 
tention in later years, that union was from the first 
a defence against the growing harshness of capitalistic 
industry, has unexpected confirmation in the words 
of almost the only impartial contemporary witness. 

When the spirit of mercantile speculation was once turned 
to the collieries . . . when competition on the market, and 
the consequent diminution of profit induced the owners 
to aim at making better terms with their men. . .the 
latter sought to strengthen themselves with the dangerous 
bond of combination. From that time a series of con- 
flicts, too painful to be dwelt on, as being in every way 
disastrous in their consequence, ensued 1 . 

For over two hundred years capital had played a 
part in coal mining almost unparalleled in a country 
where industry was in general still poorly developed. 
For ten generations the pitmen had been wage- 
dependent labourers, of a kind rare until the inven- 
tion of the factory system. Yet, until the late 
eighteenth century, there had been small signs of 
wage manipulation. The strong hereditary influence 
in the coal trade, the completeness of the monopoly 
which the Newcastle Hostmen enjoyed in the London 
market, the absence of internal competition assured 
by the " Limitation of the Vend," a system of restric- 
tion of output which persisted until 1846, had made 
it the rule rather to accept labour costs as inevitable 
than to seek to diminish them except by engineering 
skill. At new collieries workmen's estimates fixed the 
1 J. Holland, Fossil Fuel (1835), pp. 298, 299, 300. 


rate of wages, and few mining matters were free from 
the rule of local custom. It was the influx of new 
capital, the sudden extension of the Wearside col- 
lieries, and the success of a less hide-bound generation 
of viewers in working hitherto inaccessible seams, 
which persuaded the coal-owners to learn in the school 
of the Manchester manufacturers to treat labour as 
a commodity in a market subject to unalterable laws 
of supply and demand. Combination, strike, and 
restriction were the only weapons ready to the hand 
of the pitmen, weapons used with a vigour and 
success which kept the men, even in their later misery, 
from the worst evils of wage competition. Poor as they 
might think themselves, much as they might regret 
"the flesh-pots of their fathers" 1 , the unanimous 
witness which almost every stranger gave of the 
miner's comparative well-being was a hard obstacle 
for the miners' leaders to overcome. Cobbett might 
be ill-informed, but it was not from "the coal 
merchant Vane Tempest" whose "right to sell and 
carry away the soil of the land given him in trust " he 
so loudly decried, that he learned that the pitmen 
lived on meal and bread, as people ought to do 2 . 

Union, and the general excitement which accom- 
panied the campaign for political reform, gave the 
men a feeling of strength which encouraged them 
to two years of strife and led to their eventual defeat. 
In March, 1831, mass meetings were held to prepare 

1 Broad Sheet, Coal-Trade Offices, Newcastle: "Life, 
Character, Death of that Monster, Limitation of Coal Vend." 

2 W. Cobbett, Tour of Scotland and the Four Northern 
Counties (1833). 


the men for the approaching binding day. Over twenty 
thousand pitmen are said to have attended a great 
meeting on Newcastle Town Moor, at which the men's 
demands were finally stated. They asked for no in- 
crease in wages, merely for improved conditions of 
service. They wished for some protection against the 
viewers' right to lay the pits idle for a few days at 
a time. They said that a day of fourteen to eighteen 
hours deprived the boys of all hope of education. 
Delegates were elected, weekly meetings arranged, 
and a subscription of sixpence a man collected. In 
turn suggestions were approved for a petition to 
parliament, a claim to poor relief in idleness, and an 
appeal to the magistrates. The men departed from 
the meeting in good order, with the resolution to 
continue at work unbound if the masters would allow 
them to do so, but to be firm in their refusal to sign 
the existing bond. In addition they pledged them- 
selves to buy no more candles, meat, or drink from 
the overmen. 

The people of Newcastle had expected that mis- 
chief would follow this assembly of savage pitmen. 
Their Mayor appeared on the Moor to offer himself 
as a messenger to the owners. His offer was of some 
use to the men. It enabled their case to be stated 
in the guise of an appeal for his worship's assistance 
in mediation, as a leading member of the general 
public. Six years before the infant union, under the 
name of the Colliers of the United Association 
of Northumberland and Durham, had issued two 
pamphlets, as a plain statement of the grievances 


which they wished to be considered, the fines, the 
long hours of the boys, the frequent idleness of the 
pits, and the increase in temperature due to the 
neglect of ventilation which had followed the intro- 
duction of the Davy Lamp. Their action had been 
passed over in silence, their desire for a meeting with 
the owners ignored. But of the appeal which the 
men issued at the beginning of the strike, an appeal 
"replete with delusive and unfounded statements," 1 
the newspapers thought fit to take notice. The editor 
of the Durham Chronicle using capitals to shew 
where respect was added to obligation thought it 
his duty to concoct a reply, addressed to " the public, 
the Coal-Owners, and the infatuated pitmen, dupes 
as they are of a set of artful and designing rogues." 

But this picture of the good fortune of the pitmen, 
with their free coal, their free house, and an assured 
income of 145. a week, subject to fines and deductions 
which seldom exceeded is. Sd. a fortnight, was neither 
entirely true nor a good answer to a demand which 
laid most stress on the need for a shorter day for 
the boys. Fourteen shillings a week the owner was 
compelled to pay, under the terms of the bond, but 
if the pit were idle for not more than three days at 
a time the men were entitled to no compensation. 
This provision, devised to meet the case of an occa- 
sional accident, had suggested to astute managers a 
method of economy in slack times. A pit could be 
closed three days a week and the men left to depend 
on the wages of their working time, a sum much 

1 Durham Chronicle, April i6th, 1831. 


nearer 75. than the 145. named in the bond. And, if 
the testimony of survivors of the great strike is to 
be trusted, and every accidental circumstance sup- 
ports the story which these men told in their old age, 
the "artful and designing rogues" who directed the 
strike were men of exceptionally high character and 
ability, Primitive Methodists whom recent conversion 
by a young man from Hull had given a new zeal for 
education and moral improvement. Three men met 
each week at the Cock Tavern, Newcastle: Thomas 
Hepburn, the president, a Hetton pitman whose 
father was killed in the mine; Samuel Wardle, of 
Backworth, the secretary; and Charles Parkin, of 
Hetton, who took the money 1 . 

By the time the owners thought fit to issue a reply 
to the union statement all the long-standing grievances 
of the men had been dragged into the battle, and 
general demands could be ignored in a general denial 
of hardship. For the lowness of wages the owners 
blamed the men. " Were they to bind such a number 
of men as they could find in full work not more than 
three-quarters of the pitmen would be employed" 2 . 
But they impaired the value of their statements by 
an assertion that during the preceding year the 
average wage of the pitmen had been i8s. 4^. for 
a week of five days. Only two years before Mr Buddie, 
the best-known viewer in the north, had told a 
Committee of the House of Commons that miners' 
wages were 28s. a fortnight. 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Dec. 25th, 1882. 

1 Durham Chronicle, April 23rd, 1831 (Owners' Advt.). 


In an appeal addressed to the Mayor of Newcastle 
the men repeated their demands. A passage quoted 
from the bond proved that they were entitled to no 
compensation for odd days of idleness. It was said 
that a working day of even twelve hours meant for 
some boys an absence from home of seventeen. A new- 
felt hardship was the power of the owners to evict 
men from their houses ; an old one, the weight of the 
fines, on which the men had no check, and which at 
times reduced their earnings to 205. a fortnight. 

The men were willing to go to work unbound, but 
they refused to sign the old agreement. Rather, they 
said, they would wait for an answer to the petition 
which their delegates intended to carry to parlia- 
ment 1 . It is not surprising that here and there they 
broke into open violence. There were riots at West 
Jesmond, Chirton, and Netherton. A man on guard 
over the Fatfield pit was shot at, and dangerously 
wounded. A mob sacked the viewer's house at 
Cowpen, and wrecked the winding gear at Bedlington. 
As the poverty of the pitmen increased small parties 
wandered begging through the country-side, giving 
rise perhaps to more alarm than was warranted. 
Rumours were readily believed that they entered 
shops and inns and took by force what the less timid 
tradesmen dared to deny them. The people of Durham 
went in fear of an organised attack on their market 2 . 
The owners offered to increase the standing wage to 
305. a fortnight, but the delegates kept the men to 

1 Durham Chronicle, April soth, 1831. 

2 Ibid. May 7th, 1831. 


their original demands, in which no mention of wages 
had been made 1 . Isolated men who returned to work 
were threatened by huge crowds, but in June several 
of the pits, notably those belonging to the Marquess 
of Londonderry 2 , had quietly started, under private 
bargains which gave local satisfaction. This discord 
in their ranks warned the owners that they could 
hold out no longer. The refusal of their offer of an 
increased wage had probably opened their eyes to 
the true meaning of the discontent. Hepburn's chief 
demand, that the boys' hours should not exceed 
twelve, was granted 3 . A second reform, of almost 
equal importance, was the abolition of truck and the 
tommy-shop, a reform made rather at the expense 
of the officials than the owners. Henceforth wages 
were to be paid in ready money. Perhaps this is the 
"very considerable advance of wages" 4 which they 
accomplished, for no other trace of it can be found. 
But the men were not satisfied with a victory which 
must have rejoiced the leaders themselves. Here and 
there the strike died hard. At Hetton, the centre of 
all union activity, the pitmen came out again, de- 
manding that no stranger should be employed, and 
that a party of imported lead-miners, brought in 
during the struggle, should be sent home 5 . 

1 Durham Chronicle, May I4th, 1831. 

2 Ibid. May 2ist, 1831. And also, R. Fynes, The Miners of 
Northumberland and Durham, pp. 20-22. 

8 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 

p. 22. 

4 Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, p. 33. 
6 The Durham Chronicle, May 28th, June 4th and June nth, 


It was a mistake in tactics that the gains of the 
strike were accepted by the pitmen as an earnest of 
new victories to come. There is little doubt that their 
attitude warned the owners to prepare to make 
stouter resistance in the struggle which was plainly 
impending. During the autumn the cause of union 
was kept alive by local action. At Lambton, whose 
owner, Lord Londonderry, was the foremost opponent 
of the men, as perhaps he was their most enlightened 
employer, one or two of the banksmen were dis- 
missed. The rest of the men struck, and seven of 
their leaders were arrested. "For refusing to work, 
and inciting others to do the same" 1 they were sent 
to jail, two for two months, the rest for a shorter 
time. The delegate whom the colliery had elected at 
the last strike was one of the two who received the 
heavier sentence. Hepburn for a time seems to have 
become a schoolmaster, and to have busied himself 
as much with political agitation as with the affairs 
ol the union. "Only get the bill," he is reported to 
have said at a Reform meeting, "and every working 
man will have rum in his coffee every morning." The 
speech, little as it has in common with his other 
sayings, is doubtless a misremembered version of that 
view of political reform which many of the working 
men shared with Cobbett and the Chartists, that the 
vote would be the key to a new material prosperity, 
the fruits of a social and industrial revolution. 

In a review of the events of the year the Durham 
Chronicle wrathfully remarked "it is a fact that the 

1 Durham Chronicle, Sept. 24th, 1831. 
w 3 


pitmen suppose they are omnipotent" 1 and deplored 
the folly which led "the real tyrants, the well-paid 
colliers, ... to quarrel with their prosperity," at a 
time when three-quarters of the country was starving 2 . 
Everywhere the owners began to complain that there 
was an organised programme of restriction among the 
men. To keep up the output they imported lead- 
miners, whose intrusion the pitmen strongly resented 3 . 
It was with justice, for years of starvation in a 
dying industry had made these strangers jump at 
any chance of employment, however low the wage. 
At Waldridge a mob of more than a thousand men 
collected, and began to wreck the pit-head while the 
lead-miners were below. Their lives were saved only 
by the rumoured arrival of the military, which drove 
the pitmen away and allowed the officials to re-start 
the pumps 4 . At Cramlington, after due warning, four 
men were beaten almost to death for the crime of 
leaving the union 5 . In the conduct of the delegates 
"bad and wicked men, skulking incendiaries who 
planned in secret what they dared only order others 
to do" 6 there was too often grave irregularity. The 
pitmen of those days were ignorant men with a 
reputation for savage violence. It is not strange that 
here and there advocates of violence should have been 
their chosen leaders. Seven men were arrested for the 

Durham Chronicle, Dec. 3ist, 1831. 


R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 



Durham Chronicle, March loth, 1832. 

Ibid. Feb. i8th, 1832. 6 Ibid. 


Waldridge outrage a free pardon, and a reward of 
500 guineas, had been offered as the price for informa- 
tion 1 . But it was doubtful if they were more guilty 
than many others, though at the assizes they were 

;nt to prison for periods of from six to fifteen months. 
Hepburn said, when he counselled the pitmen to 
:eep order, "the owners were determined to punish 

mieone, and it was enough that a man was a member 
>f the union" 2 . At Coxlodge a persistent strike was 

mntered by eviction 3 , but though the newspapers 

mtinued their strictures on the dangerous preten- 
sions, the foolish beliefs, and the outrageous violence 
of the pitmen, the judge at the Durham spring assizes 
could congratulate the county on its freedom from 
outrage such as was prevalent in the south 4 . For 
in 1832, among the starving rural population, rick 
burnings were common, and the comparative pros- 
perity of the pitmen is reflected in their peaceful 

A meeting on Boldon Fell was the only reply the 
pitmen made to an exhortation to seek protection 
"rather in the confidence and approbation of society 
than in the delusive promise of union" 5 . Hepburn, 
again elected leader, exhorted the men to order, 
sobriety, and the performance of their religious 
duties, and advised them to strive for the education 

1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. 2ist, 1832. 

* R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 26. 

8 Durham Chronicle, Jan. 2ist, 1832. 
4 Ibid. March 3rd, 1832. 
6 Ibid. March loth, 1832. 



of their lads 1 . Over 10,000 had already been spent 
by the union, yet there was still 1000 in hand for 
the struggles to come. In March, 1832, 

feeling a confidence in their union, and lacking the 
prudence to be content with the advantages they had 
gained the previous year, the pitmen commenced a more 
general and formidable strike 2 , 

says Matthias Dunn, but in reality the strike was as 
much the work of the owners as the men. Angered 
by the men's persistent restriction of the output, and 
perhaps even more by their general attitude of provo- 
cative independence, the owners refused to rebind 
the union men. The Brandlings the head of the 
family was in Anglican orders, and the name was 
almost the oldest in the Newcastle coal trade led 
the way, at Kenton, Gosforth, and South Shields 3 , 
and to justify their action the associated owners 
issued a statement of wages generally paid. In six 
hours, they said, and without great exertion, two- 
thirds of the hewers could earn 45., a wage which the 
weaker men could equal by a further two hours' work 4 . 
Boys were paid lod. to i$d. a day, putters 45. for 
eleven hours' work, and shifters, men engaged on 
repair work about the mine, 35. for a day of eight 
hours. The lead-miners, imported in the face of the 
pitmen's opposition, were satisfied with their pay and 
treatment, and almost at once they had become 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
P- 23. 

a Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, p. 34. 
8 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Dec. 25th, 1882. 
* Durham Chronicle, March i6th, 1832. 


efficient workmen, a proof that pit-work required no 
long experience 1 . 

An anonymous pitman, calling himself Carbonarius, 
took on himself the duty of reply. Only the very 
best men, after eight hours' work in a favourable 
place, could earn the wage the owners said was so 
common, and one-fifth of the hewers were physically 
unable ever to earn so much, even if they toiled 
without pause for twelve hours. Three shillings, said 
this champion of union, whose letter has a ring of 
truth, was the average wage, and since the cranes 
which the boys attended worked 12 hours it was 
impossible that the boys themselves should work n. 
Carbonarius hinted that the reason why gentlemen 
of repute had signed so untruthful a statement was 
that they were over-persuaded by their agents, 
through whose eyes owners always saw 2 . It is certain 
that Buddie, the acknowledged leader of the viewers, 
a man to whom the miners owed a new safety, for 
he had vastly improved ventilation, had a gift for 
manipulating figures, and by reason of long exercise 
of power, a strong dislike of any encroachment on 
his autocracy. 

In April the last of the bonds expired and the strike 
became general, though at no time was the stoppage 
of work complete. Not all the pitmen were in the 
union. It was strong in a few places, such as Hetton 3 
and South Shields. It was popular among the younger 

1 Durham Chronicle, March i6th, 1832. 

2 Ibid. March 3oth, 1832. 

3 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Dec. 23rd, 1882. 


men, who retained perhaps a more vivid memory of 
the slavery of their boyhood. While at some collieries 
the dismissal of the union men had small influence 
on the output, at others the owners took no share 
in the attempt to check the growth of combination 
among the men but bound all alike. Hepburn's 
policy was to tax the men employed for the main- 
tenance of those idle through adherence to the union. 
Work was only stopped at pits where the majority 
of the men were in the union, and where the owner 
elected to share in the struggle. But this year the 
associated owners faced the strikers boldly. There 
was none of the hesitation of 1831. The pits were 
filled with "black-leg" labour, and after due warning 
the strikers were evicted from their homes. Special 
constables, soldiers, and the new London police were 
assembled in the villages to suppress every sign of 
disorder 1 . More and more men were enticed from 
the lead-mines, despite the efforts of the pitmen to 
scare them away by a recital of the dangers of the 
life 2 . Strangers were brought from Lancashire and 
Wales, though to prevent this second invasion the 
Bunion sent delegates into the south. In some places 
they were well received. The Yorkshire miners had 
a union of their own. The Sheffield trade societies 
were always ready to help in a war against the 
masters. But at Alfreton the people, no doubt with 
the story of northern violence to black-leg labour 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 28. 

8 Durham Chronicle, May 25th, 1832. 


in their ears, stripped and beat the delegates and 
dragged them through the village horse-pond 1 . Soon 
two or three thousand new men were working in the 
pits, and as the output rose the owners became more 
and more sure of victory. 

The men had vague desires for an increase in wages 
but the owners from the first made recognition of the 
union the only issue of the strike. The adoption of 
the system of restriction of output had been a fatal 
mistake. An association which fostered such a breach 
of faith, said the owners, could not expect recognition. 
Had the leaders been content with demands for im- 
proved conditions, or for higher wages, they would 
not have been so bitterly opposed, but interference 
with the output and infringement of managerial con- 
trol could not be borne. More and more strangers 
were imported, new districts such as Derbyshire sent 
their quota, and to account for their need of men the 
owners made no scruple of spreading stories of the 
decimation of the pitmen by cholera, or their decision 
to attempt to work a coal-field for themselves. 

Under a persuasion that it was their duty to restore 
order many of the magistrates were active in op- 
position to the strike. In 1831 the newspapers had 
remarked on the unseemly conduct of Lord London- 
derry, himself a coal-owner, in signing an official 
appeal for the preservation of the peace. In 1832 
there was only praise for his actions when at the 
head of a troop of dragoons he rode to the pitmen's 
meetings to remind the men of their duty to refrain 

1 Durham Chronicle, June 6th, 1832. 


from any breach of the peace. "Where is this great 
man of yours, your leader, Hepburn," said he, to 
stragglers on the outskirts of the crowd, but he went 
away peaceably, persuaded that no outbreak of 
violence was likely to follow the assemblies on the 
Fells. Later tradition says that the man who stepped 
forward to lead his horse through the crowd had a 
pistol ready to his hand in case the Marquess made 
any signal to the troops, and that in his later life 
Lord Londonderry was wont to say he had never 
seen a man with more influence over his fellows than 
the pitman's president 1 . But it was not long before 
the general peace of the strike was disturbed by out- 
breaks of local violence. At Hetton a man who left 
the union and signed the bond was attacked, and 
in the affray with the police a man was shot. At 
Fawdon and Tyne Main there was more shooting and 
it was thought necessary to guard the jails with 
military 2 while the violence gave excuse for the 
constables to break into every assembly of pitmen, 
and arrest the leaders 3 . In May the delegates offered 
to resign, a move which offered the newspapers fresh 
opportunities for abuse. "They have led their dupes 
to the brink of perdition, and now they will leave 
them to their fate" 4 , said one editor, who in his next 
issue regretted the folly of the men who refused so 
good a chance of peace. In June, when the men at 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Feb. ayth, 1875. 

2 Durham Chronicle, April 6th and April 27th, 1832. 

8 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 28. 

4 Durham Chronicle, May 25th, 1832. 


work were paying 6s. in the pound from their wages 1 , 
Hepburn said there were funds enough to support 
the strike for ten more weeks. But the acclamations 
which followed his speech were but the outcome of 
momentary enthusiasm, for the struggle was "virtu- 
ally at an end." The more violent spirits among the 
men were safely lodged in jail. The men at work were 
discouraged by the long continuance of the heavy 
subscription, and alarmed at the prospect of further 
violence, further evictions, and an increase in the 
number of strangers. Every week the newspapers 
began to chronicle fresh desertions. Every week the 
statements of the owners took on a new tone of 
assurance, as they published stories of the efficiency 
of the new men and their satisfaction with their lot. 
More and more stress was laid on the contrast between 
the happy life of the pitman, with his short hours, 
his high wage, his house, and his secure employment, 
and the misery of the artisans of other parts of the 
country. He had food other than oatmeal and bacon. 
He could drink tea and coffee to his breakfast, the 
whiteness of his bread was proverbial, and on his 
return from work, after little more than four hours 
actual labour, there was a dinner of fat mutton, 
bread, potatoes, pudding and beer awaiting him 2 . 

The owners had taken to heart the advice of Lord 
Londonderry, to treat colliery by colliery with their 
men and so break up the combination. They repeated 
their assertions of the folly of persistence in impossible 

1 Durham, Chronicle, July 2yth (and Fynes). 

2 Ibid. July 27th. 1832. 


wage demands now that the northern coal field had 
lost its monopoly of the London market. They sent 
agents among the men to foment discord, and to 
destroy their trust in their leaders. The strike dragged 
on until August, when the men at Hetton consented 
to be rebound and to sign the declaration against 
adherence to any union which might question their 
compact with their masters, but its collapse was made 
certain in June by a crime which was to be remem- 
bered for over half a century 1 . Nicholas Forster 2 , an 
old man who as a magistrate had been active in the 
maintenance of order, was stopped as he was riding 
across Jarrow Slake, a flood area near the mouth of the 
Tyne, dragged from his horse, and beaten to death 3 . 
A pitman, who was caught still bending over the 
dying man, and who had been heard a few minutes 
before to ask him for a drink, was arrested, tried, 
and executed. Whether the pitmen approved of the 
crime, or whether they were not satisfied that the 
arrested man was the murderer the evidence was 
hardly conclusive and he persisted in his denial of 
his guilt is not certain. But as the doomed man 
was led to execution a voice in the crowd cried him 
farewell, and local tradition said the voice was that 
of the real murderer who shortly afterwards left the 
country. The body was hanged on a gibbet at the 
edge of the Slake until, to the general relief, it was 
secretly removed. Many years later the crime was 

1 Durham Chronicle, June I5th, 1832, 1832. 

2 Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, p. 34 
8 Durham Chronicle, Aug. loth and 24th, 1832. 



still a subject of fierce discussion. The name of the 
real murderer was freely quoted, and family tradi- 
tions were exhausted in an attempt to account for 
disappearance of the gibbeted body. In the 
id, to reconcile conflicting stories, it was agreed 
lat a first attempt to dispose of it by sinking it 
the Tyne failed, that it was washed ashore, and 
eventually buried not far from the old church. 

It was generally agreed that both sides had paid 
too dear for their principles, that the strike had been 
a disaster not only for the men, but for the owners. 

The exertions of the coal-owners brought in an accumula- 
tion of labour, which laid the foundation of that over- 
plus . . . which has since produced so fatal results ... in 
the superabundant supply both of labour and coal 1 , 

said Matthias Dunn, who in 1844 wrote the first 
history of the coal-mines. The union dwindled away. 
The monopoly of the London market was lost for 
ever. There was a last meeting in August, at Shadons 
Hill, though next February it was rumoured that 
Hepburn had made new efforts to gather the men 
together 2 . But Hepburn himself had been starved 
into submission. He was offered work by the manager 
of the Felling on condition that he would advocate 
no more the principles which once he had seen 
triumph. He kept his promise and disappeared into 
obscurity 3 . During the Chartist troubles there were 
rumours that he had again been seen at public 

1 Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, p. 34. 

2 Durham Chronicle, Feb. 8th, 1833. 

3 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
P- 36. 


meetings, rumours which the newspapers thought 
worthy of denial. In their hall, among the statues 
of their great men, the miners of Durham have placed 
a bust of this almost unknown man who was their 
first leader. But all that enquiry could discover was 
that he was born at Pelton, and that he once worked 
at Urpeth, and that at the Felling he was in turn 
a deputy, a lamp-inspector, and a master wasteman, 
until in 1839, robbed of his strength by an accident, 
he left the pit to die in poverty 1 . All that remains 
of him is the memory of his exhortations to order 
and sobriety, and his appeals for better education; 
that, and the tradition of union, which after his work 
could never entirely disappear. 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Feb. ayth, 1875. 



IT was not entirely by his own act that the pitman 
emerged from the isolation of his village life; he 
was dragged into a wider world by the enormous 

[tension of mining activity. The general use of iron 
lachinery and ot steam power, the adoption of gas 
lighting, and the rapid growth of the town popula- 
tion, combined to multiply the demand for coal and 
everywhere new methods and new machinery came 
into use. In 1780 the steam-engine began to take 
the place of the Newcomen despite the fact that until 
small coal became saleable low fuel consumption was 
an actual demerit in the eyes of the viewers. When 
the invention of the crank made it possible to use 
the new engine for winding coal the last obstacle 
in the way of working the deep seams disappeared. 
By the end of the eighteenth century the 600 feet 
of the Wallsend shaft was exceeded by half a dozen 
scattered sinkings. In 1832 seams which lay 1500 
feet below the sea were being worked at Wearmoufh 1 . 

That the coal-measures extended over a wide area 
in Durham and Northumberland was well known. 
Mining had been confined to the Tyne valley chiefly 
because of the small depth of the seams, and the ease 
of access to the sea. And south of the Tyne the coal 
was soft, and bore transport badly. But this soft 

1 R. Galloway, Annals of Coal-Mining and the Coal Trade. 


/"Durham coal was well-suited for coking, though its 
/ gassy nature made mining more dangerous and added 
to the need for ventilation. But by 1820 the Tyne- 
side^collieries were declining in importance and the 
pitmen began a double migration, north to the district 
round Blythe, south to the Wear, the Tees, and the 
upland districts of central Durham. In 1832 Lord 
Londonderry founded his own coal port at Seaham 
with its attendant mining villages. The Town Moor 
at Newcastle ceased to be the natural centre for 
pitmen's meetings; the sacred places of the miners' 
union are Shadons Hill and Boldon Fell. 

In the newly developed areas the pitmen were less 
an accepted part of the social order and an increasing 
number of them were new to the life in the colliery 
rows. Lead-miners who had left their exhausted 
workings to bind themselves at the coal-pits, colliers 
from Scotland, Wales, and the Midland counties, 
Irish peasants, and south-country labourers, knew 
little of the hereditary claim to steady employment 
and of the traditional high standard of life. They 
were expected to conform more closely to the other 
inhabitants, the farm hands whom they displaced 
and the coke-men and furnace-men who came to live 
in the iron towns which grew up near the pit-heads. 
They had no reason to claim the privilege of the old 
pitmen, "undisturbed quarters, respectful distance, 
and freedom from arrest" 1 . They had no pride in 
their calling. It was a means to a living, not a 
station in society. 

1 J. Everett, The Aliens of Shiny Row, p. 25. 


<i -\ 

In every account of labour troubles it is plain that 

the centres of unrest were the new pits. The men had I 
lately come, they were as ready to go. There was a I 
high proportion of the young and adventurous. The"^ 
jood workmen, steady and fairly content, were loathe 
leave their employment, the timid ones afraid. In 
new pit village were congregated the enterprising, 
te dissatisfied, often, even, the idle and dissolute 
who found work the more easily where their character 
was unknown 1 . Most of the problems of the pit had 
yet to be settled. Where there was no memory of 
fair treatment on past occasions isolated misunder- 
standing was soon magnified into deliberate injustice. 
Where no established body of precedent existed there 
was natural fear among both men and officials that 
submission in any point would be quoted against 
them in later dispute. And naturally the men who 
rose to influence in a new colh'ery, destitute of social 
life, were men marked out for distinction by activity 
rather than by character, men who won support 
rather by words than by wisdom. And as naturally, 
words which won support in a new colliery were those 
of violence and decision. ^ 

As the shafts went deeper, the capital costs grew, 
until as much as 80,000 was spent on a single sinking. 
This increase in the initial expense made necessary 
a greater attention to the cost of working. Mining, 
became less of a mystery, to be jealously guarded 
from the stranger's curiosity. By the skill of the 
leading viewers it was elevated to the dignity of a 

1 J. R. Leifchild, Children's Employment Commission, p. 530. 


profession, and though experience was still a safer 
guide than theory scientific thought began to take the 
place of rule of thumb, and precaution, of a reckless 
disregard for danger. Though desire to add to the 
safety of the mine was in the main the stimulus to 
improvement, from the efforts to avoid the disaster 
of an explosion steady benefit accrued to the pitmen. 

""Despite the appalling frequency of accident it became 
possible to work the soft, gassy coal in Durham, and 
in the first decade of the nineteenth century improve- 
ments in ventilation encouraged the miner to begin the 
use of powder for getting coal. Blasting reduced the 

--pitman's labour and almost halved the length of his 
day. The pair of hewers who worked together divided 
the day between them, and during the nineteenth 
century two shifts of coal-getters to one of other men 
and boys became the normal proportion in the north. 
It was a good argument for the influence of short 
hours on production that man for man the north- 
country pitmen stood highest in the output tables. 
The difference between Durham and Northumber- 
land grew. Thejiard coal of the one, worked, chiefly 
for export, had a fluctuating demand, and a con- 
stantly moving market-price, but each year more 
and more of the soft coal of Durham went straight 
to the coke-ovens, and the prosperity 'of the Durham 
pitmen came to depend on the state of the iron trade. 
Moreover, as the 'soft coal was got with less labour 
and less care, rouncTcoal being no great advantage 
for coking, it was long thought that hewing in 
Durham required little skill. Certainly strangers found 


room in the Durham pits readily and the rate of 
wages was apt to be less than that current north 
of the Tyne, where the Northumberland men cherished 
a slight contempt for their southern neighbours. It 
a division which, becoming apparent in trade 

>pute, was to become a permanent feature of union 

Meantime other mechanical improvements came 
turn to make their changes in the pitman's 
litional habits of life. In the year of Waterloo the 
locomotive engine appeared on the wagon ways and 
this invention of a colliery mechanic was destined to 
make the fortune of many an inland coal-owner. 
Better screens added at once to the quantity of 
saleable coal, and to the number of men employed 
at the pit-heads. And in 1818 the launch of steam- 
tugs on the Tyne made an end of the annual holiday, 
for the mines could work steadily on while the tugs 
towed the colliers out in the teeth of the north- 

One unfortunate result of the increase in the depth 
and extent of the workings was the rapid growth of 
the number of fatalities. In 1710, an explosion at 
Bensham, the first place where the Low Main seam 
was worked, killed several men, and few years after 
that passed without some disaster. In the deep shafts 
a slip meant death. Not many men had the luck of 
the pitman who, after a fall of eighty feet, caught a 
rope end and was safely drawn up from the depths 
below. And as in the big mines the need for speed 
in the transport of the tubs grew, hurry brought a 

W A 


new crop of accidents. Drivers, passing at a trot, 
were trapped between the tub and the roof in low 
places. Men and boys were run over on the inclines. 
It was not by chance that the appalling loss of life 
first attracted public attention at Sunderland. The 
mines there were unusually deep and extensive, the 
pitmen lived almost among the townsfolk and the 
accidents of their trade were less a secret. Dr Clanny, 
a well-known local surgeon, began to enlist support 
for his attempts to construct a lamp which would 
burn safely in a gassy atmosphere. The steel mill, 
which the Speddings of Whitehaven had invented, a 
friction wheel which struck a rapid succession of 
sparks, was known to be useless. Sometimes, in 
sinking a shaft, the men worked for days in complete 
darkness. The viewers scouted the idea of a safety 
lamp, and pinned their faith on improved ventilation ; 
it had done much, it was capable of more. 

In 1813 Dr Clanny made a lamp which promised 
success. He had already formed a society to help 
him in his work, a society whose existence was ad- 
vertised in the newspapers 1 . At a meeting it was 
resolved to ask the advice of some scientist of repute 
and Sir Humphry Davy was consulted. By hard 
work, and the exercise of great forbearance and tact, 

-" at the request of one proprietor the number of lives 
lost was erased from the resolution (of formation) for 
fear of giving offence" 2 the Sunderland Society had 

1 Newcastle Courant, Oct. gth, 1813. 

2 J. H. H. Holmes, A Treatise on the Coal Mines of Durham 
and Northumberland, p. 131. 


succeeded in convincing the coal-owners of the honesty 
of its intentions. Buddie, the well-known viewer, who 
was listened to almost as an oracle, gave his encourage- 
ment to the research, and at the end of a year Davy 
produced an efficient safety lamp. Its light was 
barely sufficient, but the value of the lamp was 
chiefly that by changes in behaviour it announced the 
presence of gas. Sir Humphry Davy would accept 
no reward for his invention, which to the surprise 
of all was eagerly taken into use by the men 1 . The 
Luddite riots had fostered the belief that the working 
man, out of stupidity, resisted all innovation. But 
the merits of the safety lamp were obvious though 
its poor light increased the danger of falls of coal and 
reduced the earnings of the men by as much as six- 
pence a day. It was reserved for a later generation 
to turn its use into a danger. 

The Sunderland Society dissolved, its object ac- 
complished. But the gift of the lamp was perhaps 
of less importance than the awakening of general 
interest in the collieries. Local patriotism provoked 
many an argument in the north on the relative merits 
of the Davy and the Geordie, the lamp which Robert 
Stevenson designed. It was something of a shock to 
the old-fashioned viewers, to find that a scientist of 
the schools could do in one year what they had so 
often declared to be impossible. Contemptuous ex- 
perience could no longer scorn enquiry. In 1835 the 
House of Commons appointed a committee to report 

1 Matthias Dunn, A Treatise on the Winning and Working 
of Collieries, p. 187. 


on the causes of mine explosions. The county coroners, 
asked to send statistics of fatalities, almost ignored 
the demand. Many years later the pitmen, the govern- 
ment inspectors, and the general public joined in an 
appeal for the suspension of the Northumberland 
coroner whose old-fashioned view of his duty was 
a hindrance to proper investigation of neglect 1 ^Jn_ 
earlier days, when the owners had influence enough 
to keep irbm publication all report of accident, and 
when they ""had the active assistance of the coroners, 
it was impossible to make any good estimate of the 
annual number of the killed. No inquest could be 
heldT until the bodies were recovered. In a general 
disaster an inquest on one body was thought sufficient 
and one death was recorded where perhaps fifty men 
had perished. And as yet it was thought the duty 
of no one to protect a man from his own folly. In 
this new public interest was born the demand for 
protective legislation and formal inspection. The 
Sunderland Society made the first breach in the wall 
of concealment which for a century had hidden, 
among much unavoidable ignorance, callous neglect 
and, at times, commercial greed. 

Disinterested humanity was not the only cause of 
the new interest in the pitmen. All the political parties 
were engaged in destroying the transparent fabric of 
their opponents' dwellings. The manufacturers de- 
manded the repeal of the corn laws: the Tory land- 
lords devised the factory acts. And, with a foresight 
which told them that an extended franchise would 

1 Matthias Dunn, Report ofH.M. Inspector of Mines, 1862. 


not be confined long to the retail tradesmen, the 
radicals, the anti-corn law orators, and the advocates 
of political reform, appealed for the support of the 
pitman, voteless as he was to remain for half a 
century. From the politicians the pitmen learned 
many a lesson in the art of enlisting the support of 
popular enthusiasm. They learned the value of 
eetings and processions, of petitions and newspaper 
vertisements, of torches and bands and banners. 
They learned how to draft resolutions and to conduct 
with proper solemnity an orderly public meeting. 
Respect for parliamentary form is one of the mo*sf 
humorous features of trade-union history. Many a 
hastily called strike meeting began with a demand 
from the delegate that the men should move one of 
their number into the chair, and some unwilling 
hewer was pushed into unwelcome prominence, to 
shew by his stammering speech his bewilderment as 
to why the "agent" could not get on alone with the 
speech he had come from headquarters to deliver. 
And many a Radical was to be puzzled by the in- 
consistency of his political views and his industrial 
creed. Hepburn had not failed to remark on th'e"7 
difference of the magisterial attitude to a reform 
demonstration and a pitmen's meeting. In the strike 
of '32 the owners' newspaper champion tried in vain 
to reconcile this refusal of the right to combine with ) 
his late ardent assertion of the right of every man / 
to a citizen's vote in a new democratic assembly 1 , j 
And years later a pitmen's agent was to confound 

1 Durham Chronicle, June 15th, 1832. 


a stiff-necked owner, who paid notoriously low wages, 
and dismissed his men for reading union literature 
and giving hospitality to union speakers, by a shew 
of his inconsistency. 

Joe is a free trader. What is a free trader? Why ! ivvery 
boddy knaws. The Manchester skule, what hires lecturers, 
and that is to get us our bread cheap. Joe is a free trader, 
and circulates tracts, and all that. These is his principles 1 . 

Convinced by the failure of their strike of the 
"delusive promise of union," the pitmen turned their 
attention to politics. Chartist agitation took the 
place of trade action. The man who had been a union 
delegate became a preacher of the gospel of the six 
points. The pits which had been centres of industrial 
unrest became " hotbeds of Chartist intrigue and infidel 
teaching" 2 . Colliery smiths made pikes and caltrops, 
and on his return from a tour of the north-country 
collieries Julian Harney made report to the National 
Convention^that "the hand which swung the pick 
could at need weild the sabre and the pike" 3 . But 
though the Chartist teachings had a welcome among 
_tive pitmen there was no readiness to sacrifice pros- 
perity for political principle. The man who would 
starve to raise his wages would not strike in the cause 
of manhood suffrage. Here and there a colliery sent 
S its subscription to the National Rent. Here and there 
the pitmen made a holiday of the first day of the 
Sacred Month. But they went to work on the morrow, 

1 Durham Chronicle, Nov. i2th, 1863. 

2 Tremenheere, Reports on the State of the Mining Population. 
8 E. Dolleans, L' Evolution du Chartism^ R. G. Gammage, 

History of the Chartist Movement. 


refusing to be misled further by the foolish promise 
of universal action. _ 

It is probable that the Chartist movement did more f 
than trade-union activity to attract the attention of I 
the Government to the miseries of the working classes.^] 
The spirit of the reforms is shewn by the creation of 
a rural police, and the proposal to build churches in 
the neglected districts. Such social improvement as 
was attempted was intended less as a foundation for 
further progress than as a sop to keep quiet a people 
among whom revolution was feared. The middle 
classes joined a special constabulary which lived in 
groundless alarm of a general attack on lives and 
property. The tenant farmers sent their sons into 
a yeomanry which threatened to become a more 
dangerous instrument of oppression than any standing 
army. It was this yeomanry which charged the 
crowd at Peterloo, and against which the caltrops 
of the Chartists were designed. The hatred of the 
educated classes for all combinations, the strange 
idea which they had of their eventual purpose, the 
readiness to believe the most impossibly wild stories 
of the conduct and motives of men with whom they 
had lived as neighbours for many years began to 
pass away as the hysteria of the revolutions of 1833^. 
declined. The newspapers began to print reports of 1 
workmen's meetings without adding their old out- / 
bursts against the folly and wickedness of union. 

The coal-owners who fought the first union were 
many of them convinced that to encourage habits of 
thrift among their men would be a source of new 


danger, and that the amassing of savings would in- 
crease the readiness to strike and prolong the duration 
of the struggles 1 . But others had begun to hope that 
an increased material prosperity might bring a new 
^steadiness, and higher wages make possible a better 
social life. It was a dim understanding of this which 
caused some of the men to suspect that housing im- 
provement was often made out of a desire to restrict 
their freedom of movement. Meantime, though many 
people had been both alarmed and amazed to see the 
educated pitmen step forward as the leaders of the 
union movement, others had realised that it was not 
an unmixed evil. The more respectable were the strike 
leaders, the less was the danger of outrage. Experience 
brought the comforting assurance that where the 
educated men ruled violence was forbidden, and that 
if they dared to encounter the owners in argument, 
they were not less ready to face the men and persuade 
them to compromise. It was this which encouraged 
the more far-sighted owners to build schools and 
reading rooms where some of them hoped that "the 
truths of the laws of political economy" might be 
taught 2 . 

No influence had effects as important, or as little 
the object of hostile criticism, as the steady spread 
of Methodism. It was true that the management of 
their little chapels gave some of the pitmen a dangerous 
habit of self-sufficiency. It was true that the local 

1 J. R. Leifchild, Children's Employment Commission, p. 518. 

2 Report on State of Popular Education (Asst. Comm. A. F. 


preacher stepped only too readily from the pulpit to 
the strike platform. It was this tendency which 
hastened more than one Methodist schism. As an 
old congregation increased in respectability, as the 
practice of frugality brought wealth to its individual 
members, secession gave the enthusiasts, and the 
poorer members, a chapel of their own. The Wesleyans 
had among them the tradesmen, the newer masters, 
even some of the local professional men. They had 
an educated ministry which steadily lost touch with 
the pitmen. The answers some of the Wesley an 
preachers gave to Government enquiries shew them 
to be possessed of a social theory more rigid than 
that of the most upright evangelical who ever tainted 
his philanthropy with a misinterpretation of the 
catechism, or mixed Dr Watt's hymns with Harriet 
Martineau's economic platitudes 1 . The Wesleyans 
were never the leaders of strikes. It was the Ranters, 
as the Primitive Methodists were called even in 
official reports, who continued the real work of 
Methodism, the uplifting of the lowest ranks in 
society. They fought the evils of drunkenness, 
gambling, and improvidence. They took away from 
the pitman his gun, his dog, and his fighting cock. 
They gave him a frock coat for his posy jacket, 
hymns for his publkxhouse ditties, prayer-meetings 
for his pay-night frolics. They drove into the minds 
of a naturally improvident race the idea that ex- 
travagance was in itself a sin, until the falling wage 

1 Report on State of Popular Education (Asst. Comm. A. F. 
Foster), and evidence (Rev. R. Brown and Colonel Stobart). 


sufficed for an ever-advancing domestic comfort. The 
pit-wife who was to "take in the preacher" obtained 
her proud privilege by an acknowledged refinement. 

It was the desire to read the Bible .which was the 
first effective stimulus to education. The establish- 
ment of a Methodist class was at once followed by 
the opening of a Sunday school. In that Sunday 
school sat the converted hewers, side by side with 
their own children, new-found Christian humility 
overcoming shame at their ignorance, and impatience 
at their difficulty. Many a man was to "pass out of 
the Bible into the newspapers." Many a boy who had 
learned to read in the Scriptures was in his later life 
to reject the improving books of the colliery libraries, 
and prefer "exciting literature, Chartist and infidel 

There was often no church in the colliery village. 
At first the Methodists met in the house of the class- 
leader. Then, as numbers grew, the congregation 
began to desire a new home. 1780 was the first year 
of chapel-building, and to many the building of the 
chapel was the first lesson in communal effort. In 
the management of the service was an opportunity 
for the natural leader, in the administration of the 
funds an education in business method. At the class 
meetings the men lost their fear of self-expression. 
In the pulpits the local preachers practised oratory. 
Later this gift of speech was to be used to recite the 
tale of the pitman's wrongs, and to stir the men to 
union and to strikes. The Bible furnished many an 
economic argument, many a warning to the rich, 



many a threat to the oppressor. The Sermon on the 
Mount is an education in social equality, the Old 
Testament a trumpet blast to the warrior. With 
Psalms the Roundheads and the Covenanters marched 
to battle. Under banners embroidered with texts the 
pitmen assembled, lodge by lodge, at their meetings. 
" He that oppresseth the poor, reproacheth his maker." 



FOR ten years Lord Londonderry's specific against 
combination continued to be successful. The 
policy of making a separate bargain with the men 
of each pit, reinforced by the demand for a promise 
of resignation from the union, was an insuperable 
obstacle to the demagogue's desires. The spare en- 
thusiasm of discontent was expended on the Chartist 
cause, but, forgetting how often the Bible and the 
sword have been allies, the Methodists looked on 
Chartism with little favour. They feared the infidelity 
of its leaders ; they opposed their demands for secular 
education. They disliked the attacks on property, and 
thought the Methodist hymn-book an ill neighbour 
for the pistol and the pike. The forty thousand pitmen 
who were to rally to the people's cause existed only 
in the imagination of the alarmists. Except at such 
places as Seghill and Thornley the Sacred Month 
passed unregarded. 

At Hetton there was a strike in the spring of 1834, 
but evictions soon made an end of it 1 . At Bishop 
Auckland there was a meeting attended by about a 
hundred men, no sufficient number to give rise to 
alarm 2 . If the newspaper comments have any founda- 

1 Durham Chronicle, Feb. 2ist, 1834. 

2 Ibid. March I4th, 1834. 


tion the pitmen had been persuaded of the folly of 
subscribing their pennies that their delegates might 
live like gentlemen. Two years later, in April, a strike 
threatened in the whole of Northumberland 1 . The 

>rf was being rapidly displaced by the tub and the 
and the owners wished to discontinue the old 

icthod of paying the hewers by the measure of their 
mtput, and base their prices on weight 2 . As an innova- 
tion the change was unpopular, the more so as the 

len had cause to suspect that the new rates bore 

lore harshly on them than the old. 
In 1839 where the Chartists attempted any open 
action, " fine and imprisonment soon restored order 3 ." 
But the prosperity of the next year marked by the 
celebration of many new winnings did more perhaps 
than the activity of the new rural police. But soon 
the new pits swamped the markets with coal. Stocks 
grew at the staithes, prices fell, wages were reduced, 
and the pits stood idle two or three days a week 4 . 
Fear of a fall in the standard of life has always been 
the strength of labour agitation. The cautious man 
who will take no risk to add to his wages will fight 
the hardest to maintain them. In the alarm at the 
growing poverty the cry of " Unite " was heard again. 
There was one leader who had no longer cause to fear 
the owners' resentment, Martin Jude, once a pitman, 
but at this time landlord of the Three Tuns, in the 

1 Durham Chronicle, April ist, 1836. 

2 R. Galloway, Annals of the Coal Trade. 

8 Children's Employment Commission (Evid. Wm. Hunter, 
Viewer Walbottle). 

4 Durham Chronicle, July 23rd, 1841; June 24th, 1842. 


Manor Chare, Newcastle. In his tap-room the dele- 
gates assembled. It argued ill for the peace of the 
coal trade that among them were newcomers to the 
pits, black-legs of 1832. Mark Dent, Hepburn's suc- 
cessor, had been enticed out of the lead-mines in that 
year of disaster 1 . 

Among the old pitmen to be bound year after year 
at the same colliery was a certificate of respectability, 
and the bond itself a security against unemployment. 
It was perhaps among the new men, less in love with 
the customs of the pits, that the system of binding, 
came into disfavour, perhaps among them that the 
brilliant idea was conceived of turning against the 
owners their own weapon. If, under the bond, a 
strike was possible only once a year, a legal battle 
over some alleged breach of contract could always 
be precipitated. The bonds, hitherto rigorously en- 
forced in the courts, were many of them crude, badly 
drawn agreements. The owners were to find them 
poor weapons when the pitmen brought lawyers to 
defeat the attempts to punish indiscipline by im- 
prisonment. And in their turn the men began to 
appeal to the law to protect them from encroach- 
ments, and to bring actions for damages, in which 
the sum demanded was a trifle as "compared to the 
trouble of the defence. For the owners were as much 
trammelled by the yearly bond as the men. Wages 
fixed in March were sometimes unwillingly paid in 
September, if a fall in price had intervened, and 

1 Tyne Mercury, May yth, 1 842 ; Newcastle Journal, May 1 8th, 


profits could only be maintained by mal-practice. 
The fines were increased. It was a condition of the 
bond that for a badly filled tub, or one in which there 
was too much stone, the hewer should be punished 
id receive no payment. By forfeiting tubs an un- 
rupulous official could always reduce his labour 
ts and the men had small check on the measure- 
ent of their work. 

Hewers' wages were ruled by the clause in the 
nd defining the payment for each "score of 
rves" hewn. When, in 1832, weight took the 
of measure in the London coal-market pay- 
ent of wages by measure became an anomaly. 
Keeping the old payment and its old name "score 
price," many managers fixed a weight equivalent to 
the score of corves and removed the anomaly 1 . But 
there was a widespread suspicion among the pitmen 
that they had been defrauded by the change. Not 
only did they assert that the new weight was no fair 
equivalent for the old measure in its fixing they 
had naturally not been consulted but they dis- 
trusted the accuracy of the weighing machines the 
owners installed. In general these were beams, not 
the old-fashioned balance which every man could 
understand. Ignorance and conservative prejudice 
may have been in the main the cause of this distrust. 
It seemed an unworthy suspicion that coal-owners, 
noblemen and gentlemen as they were, could stoop 
to defraud their workmen by the beggarly device of 
I the roguish tradesman, a false balance. In later years 

1 R. Galloway, Annals of the Coal Trade. 


there was to be evidence sufficient that some men 
did not despise petty deceit where it was a way to 

The second union was part of a general combina- 
tion, "The Union of Miners of Great Britain and 
Ireland" 1 . But if the leaders were wise enough to see 
the weakness of isolation they were not far-sighted 
enough to repudiate the popular doctrine of restric- 
tion of labour. Indeed, a belief in the benefit of 
regulation of output had a foremost place in their 
economic creed. Partly to support their case that 
they were underpaid, partly to escape excessive labour 
and provide against unemployment, the men reduced 
the quantity which they thought fit to hew. To dis- 
cover how much the fall in wage in 1843 some 
15 per cent. was due to the action of the men is 
now impossible. It was a mistaken policy for the men 
to earn by election less than their customary wage. 
It placed at the command of the owners the argument 
that wages willingly reduced, could not be insufficient 
for the needs of life. If the union had from the first 
discouraged restriction the owners would have been 
without their most powerful weapons, appeal to the 
moral indignation of the public, scorn for false 
statistics, broken faith, and foolish theory. 

A much wiser step was the institution of a law 
fund. 500 was collected, for the defence of pitmen 
who should incur arrest for breach of their bond 2 . 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 

P- 37- 

2 Ibid. 



By ill-luck the first important case was the outcome 
of a strike at Wingate over the introduction of a wire 
rope. Almost as soon as it was placed in the shaft 
the men refused to descend, saying they would not 
entrust their lives to anything but the old proven 
hempen cable, nor could the published opinions of 
well-known engineers shake their conservative pre- 
judice. Their own chosen engineer, obviously an 
orant man picked because of his bias, supported 
em in their decision, and in truth the condition of 
the wire rope would have shocked a modern inspector. 
There was no question that many of the strands were 
broken, and that the outer covering shewed several 
signs of wear 1 . But in the eyes of all progressive men 
the wire rope was an improvement. It made possible 
an immediate increase in the speed of winding, and 
by the diminution of both thickness and weight 
promised a new ability for the working of deep mines. 
The strike was but another instance of the foolish 
opposition of workmen to all invention. The mine- 
owners offered to allow the timorous to descend by 
another, if less comfortable, way. In the dispute, 
complicated already by wage dissatisfaction, there 
was even a hint that the old cable would be put back 
if the men would forgo the claims for their arrears. 
In the end the strike came to an amicable conclusion ; 
small concessions were made to the men, and the wire 
rope remained. The most important outcome of the 
quarrel was that Homer, the lawyer to whom the 

1 The Durham Chronicle, Aug. and Sept. 1843; and R. Gallo 
way, The Annals of the Coal Trade. 

w s 


pitmen had entrusted their case, gave up his position 
in disgust 1 . Of his four cases he had brought but one 
to a successful conclusion. Claims for damages against 
Sir William Chaytor, and the Thornley Colliery, had 
been defeated 2 . Only under the terms of the West 
Holywell bond had he upheld his contention that for 
unexpected days of idleness the pitmen were entitled 
to their pay. 

At once a new man appeared, W. P. Roberts, a 
solicitor from Bath, who for the next twenty years 
was to be famous as "The Pitman's Attorney- 
General." How he came to the north is well described 
in the Newcastle Journal : 

The agitation of Chartism brought to the surface of 
society a great deal of scum, which usually putrefies in 
obscurity below, and among the parties who assumed 
prominence in this turmoil was a man named Beasley 3 . 

When the Chartist cause collapsed Beasley became a 
professional agitator among the pitmen, and until the 
Methodists took exception to him he was editor of 
the Miner's Advocate, one of the two unstamped 
journals which were founded in 1843 to support the 
miners' union. When the pitmen grew dissatisfied 
with Horner, Beasley wrote to Roberts, whom he had 
known as a Chartist, and the west-country attorney 
seized the opportunity to leave a district where he 
too had come to unprofitable notoriety 4 . 

He was promised by the union a salary of 1000 

1 The Durham Chronicle, Aug. 2ist, 1843. 

2 Ibid. July 28th, Aug. 3rd, 1843. 

8 Newcastle Journal, April i3th, 1844. 
4 Ibid. 



a year. Beasley was articled to him at their expense, 
and together the two began to outrage all respectable 
feeling in the north. Roberts saw that once he had 
)mmitted himself to the pitmen's cause, his profes- 
mal ruin was certain. He could hope only for the 
iccess of the union, unless indeed he could obtain 
bribe to silence, if by persistence he could drive the 
)wners into so underhand a course. It is to be feared 
that the boldness of his fight and the excellence of 
his cause do not entirely clear this champion from 
the charge of being a rogue. That he was able there 
is no doubt: alone, he was more than a match for 
all the legal skill the owners could engage,jthough 
it had the favourable ear of a biased court. If he 
"lived like a lord on the pennies of the starving 
pitmen" 1 , he gave them astonishing value for their 
money. He addressed their meetings, he drew up 
their resolutions, he edited their public appeals, he 
dictated their policy, he was their adviser in all 
matters. His letters to the newspapers were so 
frequent, so powerful, and so hard to answer, that 
in the end the editors were driven to refuse them 
insertion except as advertisements. He induced the 
men to appeal to parliament, he wrote their petitions 
and found a member willing to present them, he 
ignored every attack on his motives, he listened un- 
moved to the threats of the angry, he passed over 
accusations of dishonesty which the men themselves 
were not slow to make in times of disappointment. 
Perhaps he was not required to starve with his clients 
1 Durham Chronicle, Sept. isth, 1843. 



because he shared their principles. The owners and 
their lawyers were not unrecompensed for their 
belief in competitive economics and the rights of 
property. He could well jeer at their pretence of 
high motive and accuse them of a conscience which 
was not without its monetary reward. The worst that 
can be proved of the pitman's advocate was that he 
was unscrupulous, vulgar, and of unsurpassed thick- 
ness of skin. Every time he went into court he 
invited commitment for contempt, escaping at the 
last possible moment by a shameless withdrawal or 
more often by bullying the magistrates. If they 
roared and stamped, he roared and stamped even 
louder. If they threatened and beat upon the bench, 
he returned threat for threat and beat upon the table. 
If they availed themselves of their position to deliver 
lectures on political economy, he dragged into his case 
a violent exposition of the rights of man. Unused to 
contradiction the gentry on the bench threw away 
by undignified rage their judicial advantage, and 
blind to their folly the newspapers continued to 
publish, with minute particularity, speeches whose 
sentiments they were in general anxious to conceal. 
Better advertisement of their cause the miners could 
hardly have contrived. 

Roberts' first great case was the outcome of a 
strike at Thornley. Exasperated by the unbearable 
weight of the fines and by the arbitrary manner of 
the viewer the men had struck, and sixty-eight of 
them were brought before the magistrates on a charge 
of breach of contract. To a bench, every one of whose 


members was directly interested in the coal tradg; 
HecEIes, the viewer, jt^ his storv of complaint, 
deputation^ and strike 1 . His brutal frankness was 
witness sufficient that the injustice of which the men 
complained had been deliberately increased, and that 
the strike, if unsought, was not unexpected. " I don't 
doubt," said he, "that one man may have been fined 
!2s. in two days. I know that other men have been 
ied 8s., 75., 6s., and 5s. a day." The men had asked 
for boxes to be put at the pit-head, in which the 
stone sent up by each man with his coal could be 
placed as a proof of the extent of his offence. It had 
been done and the fines had increased at once by a 
third. But it was quite evident that the viewer had 
kept well within the terms of the bond. The secret 
of the dissatisfaction was that for the first time an 
old contract, in itself impossible of fulfilment, had 
been strictly enforced. Year after year its provisions 
had been neglected, until the men had come to sign 
willingly a contract of the true nature of which they 
were ignorant. Now the only plea left to them was 
that a long-standing bond demanded a skill beyond 
human ability. It was on this that Mr Roberts based 
his case. He called the hewers, one by one, to testify 
on oath that, with the utmost care and skill of which 
man was capable, they could not avoid the fines for 
mixing too much stone with the coal. When the court 
grew weary of the repetition, and objected that no 
man would make a bargain which offered him such 

1 Durham Chronicle, Nov. 24th, 1843; and R. Fynes, The 
Miners of Northumberland and Durham, p. 39. 


small advantage, he threatened to call every one of 
the hewers, three or four hundred though there might 
be, to confound this belief. As the men in the gallery 
muttered their applause he grew eloquent: 

Though in nine-tenths of the cases the pitmen swore that 
the colliery weights were false, yet they were condemned. 
Was it always to be imprisonment, imprisonment, im- 
prisonment ... as if the men were all criminals, the 
owners all angels . . . was it to be reserved to this country 
to have a law which gave the rich the power of inflicting 
imprisonment, while it did not give the same power to 
the poor? 1 

And when, despite his defence, the men were com- 
mitted to prison for six weeks, there was a scene in 
court which has not often been paralleled in our 
orderly judicial history. 

During the hearing witnesses had sworn in turn 
that they had never earned the wages promised them 
in the bond, that they had never been placed in the 
house which was an essential condition of the hewer's 
contract, and that when they had offered money as 
payment for the debts they had incurred in fines it 
had been refused. One man swore that Heckles had 
offered to bribe him to bear witness to the justice 
of the fairness of the contract. "If he could swear 
he could work for a fortnight without having any 
^laid-out ' he should have easy work, he should have 
his bread for doing nothing." Mr Roberts attacked 
the honesty of the magistrates, one of whom in the 
past had refused to issue a man a summons against 

1 Durham Chronicle, Nov. 24th, 1843; and R. Fynes, The 
Miners of Northumberland and Durham, pp. 39-47. 


his master because the sum at issue, 35., was too 

small. But if the contract seemed impossible, the } 

court biased, it should be remarked that in later 
days men were heard to boast that they had put 
stone among the coal to provoke a strike, and that 
the Thornley men of those days bore no very good 
character 1 . 

As the convicted men left the court Roberts rose 
to protest. As the magistrates stamped upon the 
bench, he beat upon the table, shouting above their 
orders : 

Rather than submit to such a bond, the men they saw 
in the gallery would all go to prison. They would declare, 
so help them God, that they would not work until the 
men sent to prison were released. 

ALL! ALL! roared the Thornley hewers, with such 
effect that the magistrates sought to quiet them by 
a bargain. If they would return to work the magis- 
trates would petition the Home Secretary for the 
release of the offenders and later, on the grounds of a 
technical error, the men actually were released 2 . 

The pitmen's meetings began again. Forty thousand 
assembled at Shadons Hill, to be exhorted to order, 
and to listen to a recital of their wrongs. At the 
owners' annual meeting, held to discuss the terms of 
the bond for the coming year, an unexpected step 
was taken: the bond was abandoned and a monthly 
agreement put in its place. It was a natural conse- 
quence of the annoyance at the constant litigation, a 

1 Durham Chronicle, Nov. 24th, 1843. 

2 Ibid. ; R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and 
Durham, pp. 39-47. 


tribute to the skill of Beasley and Roberts, but there was 
general alarm among the pitmen, especially among 
the older men who had been bound year by year since 
they first kept a door. As a counter Roberts drew 
up a specimen bond, the terms of which were widely 
circulated and subjected to universal comment. 

It made an attempt to enlist the support of every 
class in the mines. The bond was to be made for six 
months. The smart-money a weekly payment during 
incapacity which followed injury was to be raised 
from 55. to los. Widows were to be given a pension, 
and a grant towards their husband's burial. The new 
fly doors, which required no small boy in attendance, 
and diminished the employment of children, were to 
be removed. The fines were to be limited, and no man 
was to be punished for absence when attending 
delegate meetings of the union. The hewers were to 
be paid by weight, and given a plain statement of 
their earnings. Moreover, they were not to be put 
to any work which they were not accustomed to do. 
It was a sore grievance, and one which was to persist 
many more years, that in emergency the manager 
could send the hewers to other employment. They 
disliked tasks which they thought unworthy of their 
strength and skill, and until the manager's power was 
hedged in by a host of limitations they were apt to 
lose money by the change. Roberts did not forget 
himself; men were to be given a fortnight's notice 
of intended prosecution. But it was the wage demand 
which assured for the men's bond immediate refusal. 
Not only were the men to be paid weekly, and the 


wages made more stable, but the hewers were to be 
guaranteed steady employment, five days a week at 
35. a day, and 35. a day was to be esteemed the 
measure of a fair day's work 1 . 

On a falling market it was too much. The demand 
meant an advance in wages of 30 per cent. The 
owners ignored the document, so plainly a challenge 
to battle, and in March, 1844, the third great strike 

1832 had taught the owners more than one lesson 
in tactics. They had built up stocks of coal sufficient 
for the first weeks of disorganisation and the sale of 
these stocks at strike prices was ample compensation 
for a short period of idleness. But by the end of a 
month the pitmen were starving. Their prosperity 
was less deep-seated than in the past. In the last 
strike they had spent their savings and scattered 
their household treasures 2 . It was only the fortunate 
who had contrived to buy back the ornate mahogany 
furniture. It was only the provident who had regained 
the old high standard of domestic comfort 3 . In the 
new collieries there were few gardens and pig-crees 
and the men preferred to spend their leisure in pitch 
and toss rather than to busy themselves with more 
gainful occupation. The constant movement of the 
population had cut short the credit which in ordinary 
times the tradesmen were only too willing to offer. 
In fact, every resource was weakened, and the second 

1 Matthias Dunn, A General View of the Coal-Trade since 
1836. (Appendix to An Historical View.} (1844). p. 226. 

2 Leifchild, Children's Employment Commission, p. 719. 
8 Durham Chronicle, April 5th, 1844. 



union was a poor substitute for the old prosperity. 
It made no boast of a strike fund, such as in Hepburn's 
days had given the men an unwonted confidence. 
Indeed there had been small chance to create one, 
for the bulk of the subscriptions of its single year of 
life had been spent on Roberts and his legal activities. 
The very fact that the strike was more general was 
a source of weakness, for no union men were at work 
and no levies could be demanded for the support of 
the strikers. 

There were the usual meetings on the hill-sides to 
strengthen the men's resolution but from the first 
the union sought a wider publicity for its demands. 
It held meetings in Sunderland and Newcastle where 
Dent and the other leaders quietly expounded the 
strikers' case to crowds which included even viewers 
and owners. Letters were sent to the newspapers, but 
the editors were less inclined to make room for them 
than ever now that the men had a journal of their 
own, the unstamped Miner's Advocate. A little to the 
men's astonishment, at the end of a month the 
owners were so far from wishing to treat that they 
commenced a vigorous opposition. Black-legs were 
imported from Wales, and Cornwall, and Ireland. 
South-country parishes encouraged their paupers to 
go north, where they were told that high wages could 
readily be earned. Weak-hearted men were enticed 
back to the pits by promise of favour. Soon, the 
owners were able to publish a weekly statement of 
the number of men at work, the number of new hands 
engaged, and the number of deserters from the union. 



It was an advertisement of their triumph : each week 
the figures grew. Next, in odd corners of every news- 
paper, as letters, as advertisements, and as news, 
accounts began to appear of the high wages the 
black-legs were earning. It was at once an appeal 
to the cupidity of the men 1 and an imposition on the 
credulity of the public. That men earned at times as 
much as 75. 6d. and los. a day was probable. In most 
>its there are places where the coal is easy to get, 
and such men as were at work were naturally sent 
to those places, while their output was measured with 
a generous hand. The strike had started in April. In 
July Hetton was approaching its usual output 2 and 
at most of the Durham collieries the owners were well_ 
satisfied with their success. The black-legs worked 
under the protection of the new rural police, and of 
a force of special constables which consisted in the 
main of colliery officials, who at the price of an oath 
obtained magisterial protection, and the right to 
carry arms. 

There was little show of military force, and on the 
whole less need for it than in the past, for the influence 
of the Ranters, though on the side of union, was 
against violence. Lord Londonderry was as active 
as in the other troubles. He was grieved that the 
ancestral pitmen of the house of Vane and Tempest 
should strike, and yet admit to him, in conference, 
that they had no grievance 3 . In a proclamation he 

1 Durham Chronicle, May lyth and 3ist, June 7th, 1844. 

2 Ibid. July 26th, 1844. 

3 Ibid. June 2ist, July iQth, 1844. 


forbade the tradesmen of "My town of Seaham" to 
assist such ungrateful and foolish men by extending 
to them credit 1 . He threatened to bring over Irish 
labourers, from his other estates, and in the end the 
Irish came. His efforts to check the giving of credit 
were generally imitated, and the tradesmen were 
given long lectures on the folly of a mistaken kind- 
ness, which at once increased the miseries of the 
men, and their own subsequent loss 2 . The readiness 
of the shop-keepers to listen to the advice was the 
cause of much of the enthusiasm for co-operation. 
The men were slow to forget a step which they thought 
a mean desertion, and they rejoiced at the chance 
of delivering a blow to men who had shewn so little 
sympathy with starvation. A few even foresaw the aid 
which co-operative stores might be in later strikes. 
But the owners' strongest weapon was the power 
of eviction and it was by wholesale evictions that an 
end was made of the strike. When the pitmen refused 
their employers' pay they had no longer a right to a 
house. If they would not be bound they could be 
removed, to make room for willing men. It was 
impossible to deny the legality of the owners' right, 
difficult to question its justice, for room had to be 
found somewhere for the black-legs. But it was the 
power of eviction which caused most of the bitterness 
of the strikes, which led to hate, and violence, and 
outrage. Even had houses existed, other than in the 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 82. 

2 Durham Chronicle, May 3ist, July 5th and I2th, 1844. 




colliery rows, they would have been closed to men 
who were without work or money. But pitmen on 
strike never entertained a thought of leaving their 
own village. They were the staff of the colliery, the 
newcomers were but temporary intruders who had 
interfered in a quarrel which in no way concerned 
them. Their coming was resented but it was resented 
the more when it had what seemed the unfair result 

turning families from houses which by long occupa- 
ion they had come to regard as their permanent 
home. When a force of bailiffs, recruited from the 
slums of the towns, burst open the doors and turned 
the furniture into the street it was hard for the men 
to keep their anger within bounds, and harder still 
for the "house-proud" women. 

If the evictions had been carried out in good faith 
they would have produced ill-feeling enough. But 
families were turned from their homes with no 
thought of making room for strangers, publicans were 
threatened if they gave them hospitality, and the 
bivouacs which the men built in the fields and the 
streets were broken up on charges of trespass, of 
causing obstruction, or the excuse of public nuisance. 
But when the bailiffs often well known as thieves 
and beggars of design maltreated the furniture, 
abused the women, and jeered at the men, it was 
not strange that riot speedily followed. It was a 
refinement of later days to send a doctor with the 
candymen, as the evicting party were called. At first 
women and children, the sick, the aged, even the 
dying, were thrust ruthlessly into the streets. 


As Mr Roberts said, the strike was " a trial between 
the long purses of the owners, and the hungry guts 
of the pitmen" 1 , and hunger was not an ally to 
boast. By the end of June some 200 men were leaving 
the union every week. The Durham men were the 
first to submit 2 . The pits in which they worked were 
newer, bigger, and under less sympathetic manage- 
ment. They had been most affected by the wage 
reductions. They were the first to feel the full weight 
of the owners' displeasure. In the old Tyneside col- 
lieries master and man fought out the struggle alone. 
Only in the north of Northumberland was there much 
immigration. But to Durham Irishmen came in large 
numbers, and there eviction was general. There had 
been two great meetings south of the Tyne, at which 
20,000 men listened earnestly to complaint of harsh 
treatment, dangers, discomforts, and fines, and to a 
strange new doctrine, that by their labour the pitmen 
deserved well of the community. When the scene of 
the meetings was changed to the Town Moor, at 
Newcastle, it meant that the strike was at an end. 
At the first of these meetings 25,000 men assembled, 
in a pouring rain, to give visible disproof of the 
rumour that desertion had defeated the union. A fort- 
night later but 5000 men were there 3 . They were the 
Northumberland men alone, for by the end of August 
every colliery in Durham was in full work at the old 
terms. It gave the death-blow to the union when in 

1 Durham Chronicle, May loth, 1844. 

2 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
pp. 66-81, 1 02. 

3 Durham Chronicle, May 24th, June 2ist, July i2th, 1844. 


despair the Ranter preachers advised the men to 
submit and save what they could 1 . 

Here and there a feeble attempt was made to 
secure the re-engagement of the leaders. Here and 
there the strike ended in an outburst of violence. 
But eighteen weeks of idleness and starvation had 
made an end of the men's resolution. The delegates 
whom they had sent to London jeeringly called the 
Twelve Apostles had collected but a paltry sum. 
When the tradesman's credit was exhausted, the last 
dresser and eight-day clock sold, even the rings from 
the women's fingers pawned, " poverty and indigence, 
unable to cope any longer with wealth and affluence, 
gave up the combat" 2 . 

The second union gained nothing. It had made 
demands less definite and more far-reaching than had 
the first, confined by Hepburn's wisdom to practi- 
cality. Its complaints of oppression were in general 
disproved; the truth of its wage statements denied. 
Whether the daily wage was 35. 8d., as the owners 
said, or 35., as the men alleged, cannot be deter- 
mined. Restriction had made the pay-notes worth- 
less in argument. But the pitman had thrust himself 
further than ever before into public notice. For five 
months his deeds had filled the newspapers, and while 
the meetings in the towns had made the public 
familiar with his demands, on the whole, his good 
conduct had improved his reputation. It was after 
this strike that the coal-owners became possessed of 

1 Durham Chronicle, August i6th and 23rd, 1844. 

2 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, p. 93. 


a new zeal for education and social improvement. 
Meantime the loyalty which the men had shewn to 
a beaten cause, and the endurance they had dis- 
played in the long battle, were encouraging signs for 
leaders who should prepare before they began the 
fight. The boys who in this strike hung about the 
meetings, jeered at the police, hooted the black-legs, 
and shared in the starvation, were the men among 
whom a more enduring union was to be preached. 

The strike had brought a second race of strangers 
to embarrass an already overcrowded trade ; 4000 new 
men were at work in the pits. Some of them were 
navvies, who soon tired of their new life and returned 
to the railways, the roads, and the vagrant existence. 
Most of the others were unprofitable servants. A man 
bred and born to the pits was admitted to be better 
worth his wages, and as the old hands began to 
return and time to excuse their offence the owners 
forgot the debt they owed to the black-legs. The 
strangers who remained became shifters and screen- 
men, labourers rather than hewers, while the pitmen 
did their best to drive them from the villages. They 
were denied all social life: assaulted in the taverns, 
beaten in the quiet solitudes of the pits. Guns were 
fired through their windows and powder thrown down 
their chimneys. As Fynes, the first historian of union, 
remembered, "their poor, wretched lives at length 
became as bad as toads under a harrow" 1 . 

It was remarked in both the great cholera epidemics 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. no, 



that the mortality was by far the highest among 
the newcomers. In the insanitary colliery village 
where families lived in one and two rooms, while 
at the back of the rows stretched a long heap of 
dung and household refuse, household pride was the 
only defence against frequent disease. The newcomers 
were without that scrupulous care for personal cleanli- 
ness which is the pride of the true north-country 
itman and even more of his wife. Tremenheere, after 
eulogy on the Scottish immigrants, who would deny 
themselves a meal to save the price of a book, could 
find no better conclusion than "after one generation 
they become nearly as clean as their English neigh- 
bours" 1 . Of the newcomers, it is doubtful whether 
more than half remained. Only one section was too 
strong for the native pitmen, the Irish. To add to 
the natural growth of their families every year more 
friends were brought over, allured by the tales of 
incredible prosperity. For years their low standard 
of life their religion denied them the zeal for educa- 
tion, which was at once the danger and the merit of 
Methodism was to make them the weapons of the 
owners, in every wage dispute. 

1 Report State of Population in the Mining District 
(Tremenheere), 1856. 



A ~, MOST all the early mining legislation was dis- 
ciplinary. In 1736 it was made felony, without 
benefit of clergy, to set fire to a pit. In 1747 a new 
Masters and Servants Act was so framed as to include 
"miners and colliers, keelmen and pitmen." In 1736 
an Act against Malicious Injuries to Property ex- 
tended legal protection to the coal-mines. Both the 
dates and the language of these amendments of the 
law suggest north-country influence, but there was 
little interference with the coal trade, despite the 
perpetual strife between the Lord Mayor of London 
and the Newcastle Hostmen. The London coal dues 
were as heavy a burden on the consumer as the 
merchants' profits, and a diplomatic peace as a rule 
prevented untimely disclosures. But once, in 1696, 
a petition was presented, praying for a bill in restraint 
of "such extravagant rates for way-leave and staithe- 
room as (are) no small prejudice to the trade, and 
(tend to the raising of) the price of coale in the 
kingdom" 1 . And once it was suggested that coal- 
owners as well as men needed a reminder of their 
duties. In 1756 so many people were killed near 
Newcastle by falling into deserted workings that an 
angry editor proposed "that the legislature should 

1 Mark Archer, A Sketch of the History of the Coal Trade of 
Northumberland and Durham, 1897. 


compell the owners . . . who can well afford the small 
outlay to fill up such pits" 1 . 

Custom extended some protection to the victims 
of mine disaster. Widows were left in quiet possession 
of TKeir houses, cripples found light employment, 
hale survivors shewn a preference in small favours. 
After a great calamity a public subscription was 
raised, augmented a little by the charity of the 

mdon merchants, though the well-kept silence which 

-rounded all mining matters diminished both 
ie frequency and extent of such relief. In 1805 Dr' 

lapman drew up a scheme for the establishment of a 
permanent relief fund but until the matter was debated 
by the Sunderland Society it attracted little notice. 
In 1815 the owners met to consider a scheme which 
had been proposed by an anonymous writer in the 
newspapers, that a fund should be raised by placing 
a tax on the sale of coal and adding to it a small 
deduction made from the wages of the men 2 . But 4 
the plan was never seriously tried; apparently the 
owners were unable to overcome the suspicions of the, 
men, who saw in the Provident Fund a scheme to shift 
to their shoulders the burden of the poor rate 3 . From 
the pains one pamphlet took to refute what it thought 
an erroneous belief there is reason to suppose that 
many thought the occasional subs riptions an im- 
position on public benevolence, and shared the pit- 

1 Newcastle Courant. 

2 T. Whittell, Pamphlet, 1815; Newcastle Courant, May I3th, 
June 15th, 1815. 

3 Matthias Dunn, An Historical View of the Coal Trade, 
PP 37-38. 



men's belief that the support of the injured was a 
duty incumbent on the owners. 

The Sunderland Society dissolved, content with 
the invention of the safety lamp, but the exertions 
of Dr Clanny had done a little to destroy the policy 
of isolation and concealment which the owners main- 
tained out of "a mistaken view of self-interest." 
How difficult had been his task is shewn by an angry 
letter which he wrote to a friend : 

I feel hurt at the conduct of the viewers, as they continue 
to sacrifice good principles at the mercenary shrine of 
self-interest, and willingly see hundreds of their fellow 
creatures hurled into eternity, rather than encourage any 
plans which might militate against their remuneration 1 . 

How fanatical was the opposition to interference is 
shewn by the refusal to adopt a system of registration 
of mine surveys, though Buddie, the foremost viewer 
in the north, gave it his support and pointed out how 
rapidly the danger of inundation from old workings 
was growing. But there was good reason for this 
stout belief in the efficacy of individual effort. The 
northern viewers had set a standard of careful working 
and rapid technical improvement which was a pattern 
to every other coal-field. Their pride was hurt by the 
suggestion that state interference could goad them 
to exertions greater than those which they had 
willingly undertaken. 

At first the Davy lamp brought added safety, bul 
when it became an excuse for neglect of ventilation 

1 J. H. H. Holmes, A Treatise on the Coal Mines of Northum 
berland and Durham containing Accounts of Explosions (1816) 
p. 132. 


and men were habitually sent into places where a 
naked light would have brought instant disaster hints 
began to be made that the lamp was worse than use- 
less. Through the interested insistence of two in- 
ventors of a rival device in 1835 the House of 
Commons appointed a committeiTto enquire into {Tie 
frequency and causeot accidents in mines. It was 
but half-hearted in its enquiries, though its single 
decision tnat the Davy lamp was better than its 
rivals was sufficiently sound 1 . But accidents con- 
tinued, for the poor light which lamps of every 
pattern gave prevented their wide adoption, while 
Davy's careful directions were forgotten, and no pre- 
cautions taken in the use of a device from which 
miracles were expected. In 1839 a voluntary com- 
mittee gathered in South Shields to conduct a new 
enquiry. Headed by Mather, one of the inventors of 
the life-boat, the members explored several pits, 
sometimes descending so soon after a disaster as to 
be present when the rescue party was still at work. 
The committee^came to three conclusions ; that many 
of thejtraditiorial methods of mining engineers had 
no foundation of reason ; that improvement was both 
possible, and desirable, in the furnace system of 
ventilation, for ventilation was the only secret of 
security; and that legislation, and government in- 
spection, would be of undoubted value. 

From that time an increasing number of people" 
were converted to a belief in state interference. The 

1 ]. Mather, The Coal Mines, together with a Report of the 
South Shields Committee, 1868. 


men were the loudest advocates of inspection. They 
did not share the owners' fear that it would add to 
working costs and by diminishing private responsi- 
bility increase the danger. They were inclined to 
"welcome the restriction of the manager's authority. 
Nor did they take alarm at the thought that inspec- 
tion might expose trade secrets to busin^ss^rivals. 
The publicity which the owners opposed they had 
always desired, to shame bad masters out of mal- 
practice. Before the Commons' Committee the one 
working miner called as a witness held stoutly to hi 
claim forljt|ipjoug:hTrispectioii7 though^ much~argu 
ment was used to dissuade him. But the new schoo 
of engineers which succeeded Buddie was so far o 
the same mind as the men that its members wer 
ready to accept any method of compelling th 
ignorant and the conservative to technical improve 
ment. The increase of scientific knowledge had mad 
them better aware of their ignorance, more consciou 
of the difficulties of their work. They had less prid 
in their own achievements, less self-sufficiency. They 
saw that state inspection could only enforce on others 
the methods which they themselves devised, that 
laws could hamper little men who must be consulted 
in their making. 

In v 1842, to quiet the persistent demands of Lore 
AsbJey and his friends, a royal commission was ap- 
pointed to investigate the conditions of the employ- 
ment of women and children underground. The north 
took little notice of its sittings, hardened as it was 
by custom to a state which horrified the stranger 


~ ' 

It was mildly surprised at "the universal feeling of 
abhorrence and disgust" to which the terrible ex- 
posure of the cruelties of industry gave rise. In smug 
complacency it applauded such parts of Lord Ashley's 
speech as the acknowledgment that in the north 
need for his interference was by comparison small. 
Yet even in the northern coal-field, "which stood" 
out in almost every respect in very favourable con- 
trast with other districts," children 'of five and six 
were commonly employed in "places where tiiey were 
" compelled to pass through avenues not so good as 
a common^sewer, quite as wet, and often more con- 
tracted." "It is not possible," said Lord AsEIey, 
\vhi-n he presented his report to the Commons, "it is 
not possible for any man, if he have but a heart in 
his bosom, to read the details of this awful document 
without a combined feeling of shame, terror, and 
indignation" 1 . 

Perhaps the coal-owners were silenced by the public 
horroE Perhaps those from the north felt almost 
qualified to join in it. At any rate they were at first 
uncertain whether to suffer the interference of the 
law. It seemed probable that the regulations which 
were proposed would weigh most heavily on their 
competitors. Buddie, who was sent down, to watch 
the progress of LojxLAshl&y's bill, was for a time on 
the side of reform, 

turned into whole-hearted opposition. It was the 

suggesTe^~'appomtment ^pT^inspectors, to compel 

obedience^ to the act, which brought the change. 

1 House of Commons, June yth, 1842. 


Where one inspector came others were certain to 
follow. Injthe upper house Lord Londonderry fought 

(ffr f frill af pyp.ry stage. 
The commissioners had collected evidence from artful 
girls, and ignorant boys, putting questions which sug- 
gested their answer It was more important that lads 

should be taught their future occupation than that they 
should learn to read and write .... He would say of the 
coal-owners that there was no set of men in the world 
who did more justice to the men employed by them 1 . 

But though Buddie primed him with facts his ^op- 
position failed to delay the progress of the bill, and 
thelreply to the commissioners' report which the coal 
trade issued had no better effect. They claimed that 
the system of ventilation in use in the north was 
"tfee best in the world, and that their treatment of 
the children was not so gross as the commissioners 
alleged." The blame for the employment of very 
young boys they threw on the parents, who deceived 
the managers by making false statements to them 
about the age of their children. The small boys were 
not allowed to put, they were given a door to mind. 
They seldom stayed at work more than ten hours, 
never more than twelve. Their loneliness was relieved 
by the frequent passing of the putters, and "they 
beguiled the time in fond and childish amusements, 
cutting sticks, making models of wagons and wind- 
mills, drawing figures with chalk, modelling in clay " 2 . 
But state interference was inevitable. The employ- 

1 House of Lords, June 24th, 1842. 

2 Reply of Coal Trade to Commissioners' Report (Annexed 
to House of Lords' Report, June 24th, 1842). 


ment underground of women, and of boys under ten, 
was forbidden. Lord Londonderry threatened that 
he would obey the law to the letter. It made no 
mention of active assistance to the inspectors. He 
would say to them "you may go down the pit how 
you like, and when you are down you may remain 
there!" 1 . The only result of his outburst was the 
insertion of a clause to compel the owners to give 
jvery facility to the inspectors in the performances 
of their duties. 

The sub-commissioner deputed to report on the 
Tyne coal-field was by good fortune an unusually 
active man. While his colleague in Durham was con- 
tent to collect such evidence as readily offered itself, 
the statements of owners and viewers and the stories 
of a comparatively small number of children, John 
Ridley Leifchild, working in Northumberland, set 
himself to produce a description of the pit-life un- 
equalled at any time in its wealth of detail. To this 
day strangers find difficulty in understanding the 
language of the north-country, though now men who 
chat with one another in the broadest dialect can 
as a rule make use of a less mysterious tongue. But 
before the spread of education, and the mixing of 
the people which has followed increased ease of move- 
ment, the dialect was almost a foreign language, 
especially to a man ignorant of the technical terms 
his enquiry was certain to provoke. Especially 
was it hard to fathom the meaning of children, 
possessed of so small a vocabulary that "hurt his 
1 House of Lords, Aug. x'st, 1842. 


arm" was discovered to mean a broken bone. 
Leif child, unwilling to employ an interpreter, for 
some months devoted himself to study so that he 
might himself "translate the evidence" 1 . Moreover, 
he descended twelve pits "selected for diversity" 2 . 
One he inspected a short time after an explosion. 

The deep-rooted jealousy the men had of their 
employers, "their assumption as a truth, amply 
justified by experience, that the masters could have 
no desire to benefit them" 3 , made the enquiry still 

""nTore difficult. The men thought that its only object 
was the imposition of some new tax. They would not 
themselves readily give evidence. They "instigated 
their children to rudeness, and imposed on them 
silence" 4 . As the commissioner found "for a stranger 
to read the mind of a pitman circuitous approach, 
and no small tact, are required" 5 . He was inclined 

"""to suspect that the stupidity of the bigger boys was 
a little assumed. All the managers had warned him 
of their tendency to deceit and he could get little 
from them beyond "a sweeping condemnation of 
their task, and the insufficiency of the remuneration." 
Ofjrnpartial evidence there was almost none. Among 
the residents of the outside districts "rarely did 
curiosity so far overcome the idea of danger as to 
induce them to descend a pit " 6 . The mining villages 
were remote and repulsive, the concealment of their 
inhabitants " equivalent to a temporary burial " 7 . And 

1 J. R. Leifchild, Children's Employment Commission, p. 514. 

2 Ibid. p. 519. s Ibid p 5I5 
4 Ibid. p. 515. 5 Ibid p 5I5 
6 Ibid. p. 520 7 ibM p 520 


because the life of the boys above ground "was of 
so short duration, as barely to be sufficient for the 
ordinary exigencies of life" 1 even when conversation 
at last became practicable there was small oppor- 
tunity for it. 

In the north there was no story of moral degrada- 
tion to add to the terrible recital of physical hard- 
ship. There were no women in the pits. In his youth 
one man at Cramlington "had put with a woman" 
but that was years before, and even then it was a 
"rare case in the district." The pitmen not only kept 
their wives out of the pits, they denied them any 
outside occupation, holding that the care of their 
houses, their families and their men was work 
sufficient 2 . The strike of 1832 had made an end of 
truck, for little as it had flourished in "the north, 
among the older men there were unhappy memories 
of the bad bread of the days of "ticketted corn" 3 . 
The butty system, under which the men are engaged 
by one of themselves, who has contracted to work 
a seam, was unknown. So too was the employment 
of pauper apprentices. There was a striking absence 
of that worst of all evils, petty tyranny, and a uni- 
form level of wages and hours which made oppressive 
abnormalities uncommon. It was a result of thejsize. 
of the pjts and of the much maligned custom of the 
yearly bond. Every man and boy was engaged 
directly by the manager, whose authority was main- 
tained by a well-ordered system of officials almost 

1 Children's Employment Commission, p. 514. 

2 Ibid. pp. 136, 519. 3 Ibid. p. 627. 


all of whom were promoted from among the more 
skilful, reliable, and educated men. The lowest grade, 
the deputy overmen, who watched the general pro- 
gress of the work, had charge also of the discipline 
of the mine, and on their care its safety often de- 

rpeMded. The systematic delegation of authority had 
brought a freedom from accident which was the envy 

[ of other districts. 

Such abuse as existed was chiefly due to the extreme 
youth of the boys and the nature of their tasks. 
Perhaps because minute attention to drainage was not 
necessary for safety the workings were often wet and 
muddy, so much so that the putters passed in their 
journeys through places knee-deep in water. But it 
had dawned on the more intelligent owners that bad, 
low roads and the employment of very young children 
were alike poor economy. As a rule, the bigger the 
mine ; the. . better- 4he4ot .of. the. miners. 
" ^Leifchild soon found that it was not safe to rely 
too much on the evidence of the viewers. Boys had 
sworn to him that at times they strained at their 
tubs, on the inclines, till blood gushed from their 
nostrils. They had shewn him the wounds on their 
backs where the low roofs had rubbed off the skin. 
Yet one viewer said of the putters' work that "it was 

jhealthy, and promoted perspiration" 1 . In contrast 
with the men, among whom there was almost unani- 
mous agreement that twelve was young enough for 
pit work, even the most respectable viewers " willingly 
admitted that they employed boys of nine" 2 . Many 
1 Children's Employment Commission, p. 624. z Ibid. p. 121. 


swore that they had no children working below of 
less than eight years. Leifchild found many of six, 
and one of four and a half. ItwaTTfuefthat on the 
tvhole the blame lay with the parents, greedy for their 
chilclren's wage. They made excuse that the boys 
refused to go to school and cried to be taken down 
the pit. Poverty would have been a better excuse, / 
for almost all the very young children were members I 
of large families, sons of widows, or of idle and/ 
drunken parents. Blind obedience to custom was 
the chief reason. The parents had gone to work in 
theirinfancy, they thought of no better lot for their 
sons and it was commonly held that the sooner a 
boy took to the pits the better workman he became. 
Some definite act of interference was required to put 
an end to what both masters and men agreed was 
an unreasonable, unnecessary abuse. Unnecessary it 
must have been, for neither owners nor parents seem 
to have missed the labour of the children once it was 
forbidden. It was not until later acts raised the 
minimum age for employment from 10 to 13 that 
murmurs began to be heard of a shortage of 

It was no long time since starvation had driven 
the farm labourers of the south to the potato diet 
of the Irish peasant ; no long time 'since death had 
silenced Cobbett's roaring at the robbers who had 
deprived the Englishman of the true right of man, 
the right to eat bread and bacon at his meals. The 
answers of the factory children had prepared the 
commissioners for sordid tales of starvation. It was 


a pleasant surprise to find that the pit-lad's readiest 
answer was that "he had as much to eat as he 
wanted." His "coffee, plenty of bread, and some- 
times a bit of kitchen" 1 may seem poor fare enough 
but to the commissioners the viewers' tales of 
"potatoes, and bacon, fresh meat, tea, sugar, and 
coffee" 2 were ample proof of good living. In those 
days it was perilously near extravagant luxury for 
a labouring man to have his belly stretched, however 
simple the filling. And though the pitman himself 
was not content with his wage had he not the 
memory of more prosperous days his pay was 
enormous when contrasted with the few shillings a 
week of the farm labourer. The tenpence a day which 
the boys could earn from the age of six was good 
encouragement for the rearing of large families, true 
as it might be that "pit-lads eat a more than other 
lads, a vast " 3 . And if the men were at times irregu- 
larly employed there was none of that hopeless starva- 
tion common in the trades where machinery was 
teadily displacing labour. In fact, the source of the 
prosperity which has always been attributed to the 
miner is that there has been a steady, uninterrupted 
growth in the number of men to whom their calling 
offers employment. Never yet have the pitmen felt 
the pinch of a permanent contraction of mining 

What the commissioners found in the north was 

1 Children's Employment Commission, pp. 577 et seq. 

2 Ibid. p. 134, and comments on luxurious diet. 
8 Ibid. p. 618. 


not a system of deliberate oppression but a system I 
worked with too little attention to minor abuse./ 
Nominally the boys worked a shift of twelve hours, 
and in a well-managed pit this time was" seldom 

cceeded. But the great majority of the lads had 
it some time or other "worked double shift," staying 

jlow twenty-four hours. Several had worked three 

lifts, and one claimed to have been kept below on 
me occasion forty-eight hours. Either an official took 

boy with him to carry his instruments, or a putter 
stayed to take the place of a lad in the next shift 
who had failed to appear. The extra work was not 
disliked. It is an old custom of the pits that a man 
keeps for his own use ah 1 money which he receives 
in excess of his normal wage. An extra shift was 
rather a favour than a grievance. ^^^ 

But twelve hours, which meant almost fourteen | 
from home, was a long day for boys of eight. They 
were awakened by their mothers, fed, and sent ofr 
to the pits. They returned exhausted, to be washed 
and put to bed. It was the regret of more than one 
manager that they could not be kept from wasting 
their time in play "to the manifest abridgment of 
their natural rest" 1 . Often they were too tired to 
eat their meals. Their minds were enfeebled by the 
long hours; they had neither the will nor the ability 
to learn. What education they had acquired they 
lost as soon as they went down the pit. The mother 
of one little lad, who at six years and a half had 
been at work half a year, said that often when she 
1 Children's Employment Commission, p. no. 


awoke him he rubbed his eyes and complained that 
he had only just laid down to sleep. Yet his father 
"intended, when he got a little more hardened to 
the pit, to send him to the night school, and stop 
an hour off his sleep " 1 . It is not surprising that school- 
masters thought the pit-boys dull, and that " a vacant 
stare, and a heedless I don't know " was too often 
the answer to Leifchild's questioning. The owner's 
picture of the trapper passing his hours "in fond 
and 2 childish amusements" accords badly with the 
memory that Geordy Black had of his childhood: 

When aw was a bairn, carried on my fether's back, 

He wad tyek me away te the pit, 

An gettin i' the cage, an gannin doon belaw, 

Was eneuf to myek a yungster tyek a fit. 

To sit an keep a door, midst darkness and gloom 

Ay, mony an hoor by mysel, 

An hear the awful shots that rummelled throo the pit, 

And lumps o roondy coal cum doon pell mell 3 . 

That was the trapper's life. He rose at two, and 
went to work. All day he sat in his "neuk" in the 
darkness, the string of his door in his hand. Some- 
times a kindly hewer would give him a candle to 
cheer his loneliness. More often a putter would find 
him asleep, and enraged by having to open the door 
himself, would fall on him and beat him. Sometimes 
he would stray from his post, to play with a near-by 
lad. On Sundays he went to the Ranters' school and 

1 Children's Employment Commission, pp. 17 and 584. 

2 Reply of Coal Trade to Commissioners' Report (see above, 
p. 88). 

"Geordy Black" (Rowland Harrison, 1841) in J. Wilson's 
A Choice Collection of Tyneside Songs. 


learned to read A-B, ab. After a year or two as a 
trapper the lad became a driver. Mechanical haulage 
was only just coming into use. "Sets" of tubs were 
hauled to the shaft by horses " urged at speed through 
the sinuosities of the workings, to their continual dis- 
figurement and destruction" 1 . The control of these 
horses "not seldom unruly, not rarely plagued with 
viciousness " " was entrusted to the merest children " 2 . 
the eyes of the other lads, and in fact of every 
55 from the viewers downward, the driver's was 
easy life for though he drove as much as thirty 
miles a day he "rode" all the time. His hours were 
the usual twelve, exceeded at times by staying to 
attend to the horse, for a few maintained some feeling 
of kindness despite the brutal disregard, all too com- 
mon, of everything but work. But his was almost 
the most dangerous task in the mine. Hardly a 
driver was examined who had not met with a fairly 
serious accident. Either he had been kicked, or he 
had been crushed between his tubs and the roof. 
Most often he had been run over, after falling from 
the small projection which was his insecure seat on 
the tubs. It was not state protection but mechanical 
improvement which lightened the lot of the driver. 
Within a few years of the sitting of the commission 
mechanical haulage began to replace horses in the 
main roads. 

Unless he was classed as a weakling and put to 
such odd jobs about the mine as greasing tub wheels 

1 Matthias Dunn, Winning and Working of Collieries, p. 27. 

2 Children's Employment Commission, p. 523. 

w 7 


the driver in time became a putter. His work was to 
attend on the hewers, bringing them empty tubs and 
taking the full ones back to the "flat" where the 
driver waited with his horse. Like his father, every 
quarter the putter "put in his cavil," that is, drew 
lots for a fresh working-place. He was paid by the 
journey, at a rate which varied with the steepness 
of the slope, and the length of each trip. It was as 
putters that most of the lads were engaged. As a 
rule they worked in pairs. If they were "half- 
marrows," boys of the same size, they shared the 
work and the wage equally, taking turns to push 
the tub and to draw it with the "teams," short cords 
attached as handles to the front. A bigger lad worked 
as a "headsman," always pushing, assisted by a 
"foal," a small boy who always drew. These small 
boys were ill-used and overworked, driven on as they 
were by the oaths and blows of their bigger comrades. 
When a lad came to his full size he worked alone, 
hoping for the time when he would be bound as a 
hewer. Often his wage was as high as that of a man. 
In fact all "the putters, to increase their wages, 
frequently worked, regardless of fatigue, to utter 
exhaustion." Leif child was not prepared to believe 
that all the blame for this harmful exertion rested 
on the boys. Not only did the system of payment 
by output offer temptations from which they should 
have been guarded but refusal to share in the blind 
competition to obtain a high wage was sure to bring 
a lad into disfavour. One boy, for sitting down to 
eat his "bait," was fined by the manager and warned 


never to waste his time in such a manner again 1 . The 
putters were not driven solely by the desire for 
money : they were urged on by the hewers, who would 
endure no delays in the removal of their tubs. They 
"worked as if they were engaged in a sea fight" 2 , 
making the pause at each end of their journey as 
short as possible. 

All the putters were agreed that their work was 
too hard, and to the surprise of the commissioners 
lany of them said they would prefer to work less, 
jven if they should lose pay by the change. They 
complained of aches in their arms and legs, and, 
when they had to pass through badly ventilated 
places, in their heads also. They strained themselves 
by putting overthrown tubs back on the rails. They 
fought their way up inclines, and struggled down 
slopes where the full tub threatened to break away 
and run them down. Despite the leather shields 
which they wore on their backs, and the patches 
stitched on their shirts, they rubbed themselves sore 
in the low places, and the sharp corners of the tubs 
took the skin from their shoulders. In wet places, 
where the mud came over .the shoe-tops, and the 
water rose at times to their knees, the stones rubbed 
the skin off their feet. In the mornings 

It was, ne doubt, a cooen sect, 
Te see them hirplin cross the floor, 
Wi anklets shawed, and scather'd feet, 
Wi' salve and ointment plaistered o'er 3 . 

1 Children's Employment Commission, p. 162. 

2 Ibid. p. 127. 

3 Thomas Wilson, The Pitman's Pay, p. 33. 



While boys were tempted by high wages, and manly 
ambition, to attempt tasks far beyond their strength, 
too little attention was paid to the condition of 
the roads. The viewers drove the main roads three 
to four feet high, but the constant closing of the roof 
and the floor was not fought with any regularity. 
Sharp rises appeared on once regular inclines, deep 
puddles in level floors, nor was it until the place 
became almost impassable, and the work threatened 
to stop, that the shifters came to make the necessary 
repairs. Here again it was not legislation which im- 
proved the lot of the boys. Once before they had 
shared in the benefit of a mechanical improvement. 
"We put on the bare thill," said one old man, to 
shew by contrast how easy was the life of the boys 
of this later generation, and the putters had good 
cause to thank the man 

That furst invented metal plates 1 
for had 

wor bits o yammering yeps, 
That wowl about wor barrow way, 
Te slave and drudge like langsyne cheps, 
They wad'nt worsel out a day 2 . 

Now further improvement was on the way. For the 
viewers had discovered that Shetland ponies made 
better putters than small boys. Bigger tubs were 
made, more in keeping with the ponies' strength. 
The roads were made higher and more care spent on 
their repair. Where the ponies could not go, and in 
many places they went right up to the face, hand- 
1 The Pitman's Pay, p. 44. 2 Ibid. p. 43. 


putters were still required. But small boys could not 
move the big tubs. By degrees the age of the lads 
rose until now the putter is no longer a child but a 
strong young man. But boys they once were, and 
boys in name they still remain, to the confusion of 
the unenlightened stranger. 

After the passing of the act which prohibited the 
underground employment of women and small 
children it was less common for small boys to work 
a twelve-hour day, at an age which we now deem 
too small for the hard labour of the school. But the 
act was badly enforced. In 1862 a journalist onji 
visit to the pits saw many boys "who on enquiry 
said they were ten" of the truth of whose answer 
he was justly suspicious. Until the Education Act 
compelled him to go to school the pit-lad knew little 
of the pleasures of infancy. The school registers did 
what several acts of parliament had attempted in 
vain, when they made impossible callous parental 
deception. But the restraint on the employment of 
the boys was not an unmixed benefit to them. In 
the old, unregulated days there had been so many 
children that many of them worked but half the 
week. But the Education Act, which imposed a 
minimum age of 13, so diminished the supply of boys, 
that such persistent idleness became unknown. Worse 
still, it caused so greatji shortage of boys that to 
shorterPtKeir nours^eemed impossibje,for' there was 
no hope of recruiting a second shift. UntlTtTie miners 
were assured an~eight-nouFday by act of parliament 
the north lay open to the reproach that the boys 


worked three or four hours a day longer than did 
their fathers. 

The government shewed little wisdom when it ap- 
pointed Simon Tremenheere to be their first inspector. 
It was impossible for any man, unaided, to exercise 
close supervision over the whole island. But Tremen- 
heere was employed in more errands than the pro- 
tection of miners' children. He seems to have been 
the chosen expert on the working classes, their educa- 
tion, and the improvement of their moral state. Of 
his first visit to the north the men made indignant 
protest that no whisper reached them until the issue 
of the report. His single source of information seems 
to have been the after-dinner conversation of the 
owners, composed as it was of the well-worn strictures 
on the extravagance of the pitmen, the conventional 
picture of their prosperity, and the regret that so 
excellent a body of men should be so prone to com- 
bination and so open to the persuasions of dishonest 
self-seeking demagogues. He seems to have been one 
of those evangelical philanthropists whose ideal of 
industry was the paternal employer, to whom the 
little girls were to bob, and the little boys touch their 
fore-lock. His main concern was that the children 
should attend Sunday school and their parents 
read "improving books" which should persuade 
them to contentment with their divinely appointed 
lot. He was full of admiration for the work of the 
Consett Iron Company, which "by the most legiti- 
mate means of scrupulously enlightened manage- 
ment" maintained "so thorough a mastery of their 


own works" that "no Chartist, no delegate, could 
succeed" 1 . It is to be doubted whether he had ever 
made a trip to their collieries and coke-ovens, where 
Irish immigrant labour found a ready welcome, and 
where low wages were the rule. His great contrast 
was Earsdon, a "plague-spot" which nothing but 
political economy could cure, such political economy 
as the S.P.C.K. tracts made plain for every man's 
understanding. He was less troubled by the open eva- 
sion of the act it was his duty to enforce an evasion 
so general that in 1852 he made it an argument 
against advancing the minimum age to 12 than by 
the spread of pernicious literature. He recorded with 
horror that in one week a shop in Newcastle sold 
1726 copies of nine different "Chartist and infidel 
newspapers," 600 copies of a Chartist paper, 1656 
copies of newspapers "of an immoral nature, hostile 
to the existing state" 2 , and of its four religious and 
moral newspapers, only 888 copies. He was an earnest 
advocate of increased education, but he thought the 
boys might be sufficiently improved by attendance 
at school on the days the pits were idle, and at nights. 
At first he testified to his fidelity to the Church as 
by Law established by constant assertions that the 
Ranter preachers were the strength of the union. 
Later, he changed his mind, perhaps persuaded of 
the benefit of Methodism among a people whom the 
church had so long neglected. He found that the 
delegates were young men, popular, fluent, and of 

1 Tremenheere's Report, 1849, p. 6. 

2 Ibid. 1851. 


no religion, who terrified their less violent fellows 
into actions of which in their hearts they disapproved. 
The chief value of his report, rendered irregularly 
until 1858, is its record of continued educational 
improvement. The employers were losing their fears 
that education would rob the pitmen of their skill 
and add to their stubborn indiscipline. They built 
schools in the hope that they might prove a counter 
to union influence. It was an age when the Govern- 
ment proposed to call on the church, as the most 
effective enemy of Chartism. Among working men 
there was an immense spread of "superficial know- 
ledge" which led ignorant men to read Plato's 
Republic, fascinated by its communist doctrines 1 . 
There was an alarming increase of infidelity and 
socialism. But in 1854 Tremenheere had lost a little 
of his fear. He had conversed with two of the union 
leaders mentioned by name, with the honourable 
affix of Mr and had been surprised to find them 
possessed of a keener desire for education than his 
own 2 . But the need for his enquiries was gone. Since 
1851 a new kind of inspector had been at work, Her 
Majesty's Inspectors of Mines. 

For in 1850 the first Mines Regulation Act had 
been passed. It did little beyond appoint inspectors, 
but how eagerly these inspectors were awaited was 
shewn by the popular discontent at the delay in their 
appointment. From the first the Government chose 
their men well. The inspector for the northern 
district, Matthias Dunn, was a well-known mine 
1 Tremenheere's Report, 1852. 2 Ibid. 1854. 


manager of wide interests, who had long been an 
advocate of state supervision. The new inspectors 
confined their energies to technical enquiry, and it 
was rare that their suggestions were resented. In 
1856 the northern coal-field was given a second 
inspector, Atkinson, an engineer even less open 
to criticism than his somewhat dogmatic superior. 
Scientific enquiry and legal action had for ever re- 
placed reliance on paternal philanthropy. The need 
had gone of appeal to sentiments of humanity. Hence- 
forth the miners' demands were to have the ear of 
political ambition. 

Thus in 1850 three of the desires of the early 
philanthropists had been attained, state inspection, 
state regulation, and public registration of mine sur- 
veys. One only remained, the provision of support 
for the injured. 

It too came, and in a form which would have 
received the approval of the Sunderland Society. 
Lord Londonderry continued to assert his belief that 
to maintain the sufferers was a duty incumbent on 
the owners, that "in proportion as the collier devotes 
his labour and incurs the risk of the mine for the 
benefit of his employer, so is the latter in common 
duty, honesty, and charity bound to provide for those 
bereft of their protector" 1 . The stout-hearted old 
soldier, whose opposition had twice destroyed the 
union, justified his economic belief by his actions, and 
kept his high place in the respect of the men. But 
"the new-fangled doctrine" was not to the tastes of 
1 Durham Chronicle (Letter). 


many of the owners. Quietly a Provident Society 
was formed. Membership was voluntary; there was 
a subscription from the men, a contribution from the 
owners. To the support of the society was enlisted 
the more stable element of unionism. In 1862 there 
were several notable disasters. The newspapers, while 
raising subscriptions, did not fail to recommend the 
Provident Society to the men's notice. From that 
time it became one of the firmest institutions in the 



THOUGH in the strike of 1844 the second union 
received its death-blow, it was to be a very long 
le dying. Next year the competition of the Midland 
)llieries destroyed the harmony of the northern coal- 
le. The system of allotment of contracts by which 
for over two hundred years high prices had been 
maintained in the London market was abandoned, 
and a fierce fight began for foothold which ruined 
many of the smaller collieries. In innocent simplicity 
the stout free-trade journals of the north bewailed 
the destruction of a monopoly which had been so 
profitable to their patrons. Unrestricted trade had 
never been of permanent benefit to the consumer, 
said the Durham Chronicle, a stout advocate of Corn 
Law Repeal 1 . The owners' quarrels brought temporary 
prosperity to the pitmen. Stout union men were no 
longer driven from colliery to colliery in a hopeless 
search for work: managers anxious for high output 
could not afford to turn good workmen away for a 
principle 2 . But though high wages and steady work 
helped to silence the complaints of the men, the feeble 
remnant of union survived the prosperity. In secret 
the old delegates continued to spread their teaching. 

1 Durham Chronicle, July 3ist, 1846. 

a R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 117. 



When Slingsby Duncombe introduced his first " Mines 
Regulation" Bill, he was furnished with as thorough 
a record of disaster as Jude and Roberts could 
compile 1 . The men even dared to sign a petition 
asking parliament to undertake their protection. 

In 1849 there was a series of local strikes, provoking 
new interest in union sufficient to encourage the 
leaders to call a secret delegate meeting. The men 
were uneasy. They suspected that the introduction 
of big tubs was in part an attempt to diminish their 
wages. For the size of the tubs was steadily growing, 
as improvements were made in the system of under- 
ground transport, and to conservative pitmen it was 
little use to plead that "the high character of the 
owners was in itself a guarantee that no advantage 
would be taken of the change" 2 . Threats of a strike 
were so common that the temporary disunion of the 
owners came to an end, and the men's complaints 
died away 3 . In 1851, when the seamen of the northern 
ports struck, the pitmen joined with their ancient 
enemies in demonstrations at Sunderland and New- 
castle. At a huge meeting on the Town Moor, after 
the sailors' wrongs had been recited, Martin Jude 
read out a list of the miners' demands. They wished 
to be paid by weight, not measure. They wanted an 
eight-hour day for the boys. And they asked for a 
monthly inspection of the pits 4 . The magnitude of 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 121. 2 Durham Chronicle, Nov. gth, 1849. 

8 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 138. 

4 Durham Chronicle, Oct. igth, Nov. roth, 1851. 


the demands suggests that Jude's authority was 
slipping away. They were pious hopes, not suggestions 
for practical reforms, while the rider, that ponies and 
big tubs should be prohibited, was a mere appeal 
to ignorant conservatism. The men said that the big 
tubs interfered with the ventilation. There was no 
hint that they really feared a wage reduction. 

Next year there were rumours of a general revival 
of union 1 . Perhaps it was memory of the poor response 
of the men to the efforts of the agitators which moved 
Fynes to record "in that year the union might be 
said to be at an end" 2 . But if the union was dead 
the idea of union was not. There were whispers that 
along the Wear valley the men were still banded 
together, and wherever a local grievance ended in a 
hasty strike at the first sign of war the men sent for 
their old leaders and refounded the local lodge. Each 
year there was a meeting on Black Fell to discuss 
the expected terms of the bindings 3 . In 1854 I 3> 
signatures were collected to a petition for better in- 
spection, and at Christmas the Seaham men came out 
on strike. Though Martin Jude was allowed to 
arbitrate the men refused to accept his award 4 . They 
were evicted, and in the confusion a dying child was 
turned into the street. When the black-legs arrived 
the strikers fell on them and drove them away, 
bursting down doors and windows to reach them in 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. 3ist, 1852. 

2 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
P- 139- 

3 Durham Chronicle, Aug. 26th, 1853, April yth, 1854. 
1 Ibid. Dec. 22nd, 1854, Jan., Feb. 1855. 


the houses to which they fled. The strike closed with 
a long list of arrests for riot, and the prisoners again 
sought the aid of Mr Roberts. Seaham was not the 
only colliery which struck in protest against the in- 
sufficiency of wages. At Hetton 3000 men lay idle 
for nine weeks in a vain attempt to stave off a re- 
duction 1 . 

Next year (1855), on both sides of the Tyne, there 
was sudden resistance. Its failure in Northumberland 
had a result greater than that of many a small success 
for " the minds of all thinking men began to turn to 
union" 2 . Wages had fallen so low that there was less 
to lose by a fight than by submission. A strike at 
Seghill gave the signal for action. The manager, 
knowing that further wage reductions were impossible, 
made an attempt to raise the proportion of "round" 
among the coal. Every man was given a rake, and 
to every two men there was a riddle, in the use of 
which the men wasted time spared grudgingly from 
hewing. Suddenly, at an hour's notice, they 
struck. It was in the face of the warnings of a newly- 
formed Methodist class, yet its members were chosen 
for punishment. One man was arrested at the bed- 
side of his dying wife 3 . It was in vain that the strikers 
protested against the selection, telling the manager 
that he had punished the wrong man. His reply 
shews the spirit of the quarrel. " I know that. That 
is why I have put them in prison. It is no use putting 

1 Durham Chronicle, June I5th, 1855. 

2 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Dur) 
p. 183. 

8 Ramsay Guthrie, Black Dyke (a semi-historical novel). 



them in who cannot feel." In the words of the pre- 
amble to the rules of the third union "the time had 
arrived when the miners were called in the spirit of 
love and friendship to unite, and be able to with- 
stand the daily oppressions which were heaped upon 
lem" 1 . 

It was no easy task for the men to unite. The 
Iges could not hire rooms for their meetings : even 
ic inns were afraid to receive them. As soon as a 
>ader appeared he was dismissed and "there never 
ras, at any colliery, men wanting who for a smile 
from the master would betray their fellow-men" 2 . 
But union was the more difficult now that there were 
rivals in the field. One, "The Miners' Provident 
Association," was a society which was making a 
successful attempt to provide relief for the victims 
of mine disaster. Founded in 1859, it had a very 
uncertain life for three years, until the Hartley 
disaster awoke the pitmen to the dangers of their 
life. A beam of the pumping engine broke and a huge 
mass of iron plunged down the shaft, carrying with 
it masonry and brattice alike. The single shaft was 
so completely choked that a volunteer band of sinkers, 
working day and night, were unable to win through 
to the men below before the whole pit's crew had 
perished. Enormous crowds assembled at the pit- 
head to watch the progress of the work. The whole 
country shared in an anxiety which changed into 

1 "Rules of the Miners' Union," The Newcastle (Weekly] 
Chronicle, Feb. I5th, 1863. 

2 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 181. 


sorrow as hope was gradually abandoned of reaching 
the imprisoned men in time 1 . Two hundred and 
fourteen miners, the manhood of an entire village, 
perished, and though an ample subscription was 
raised to relieve the sufferers, owners, pitmen, and 
public alike were convinced of the need for some 
provision more certain than casual charity. It was 
not right that the advertisement of disaster should 
be needed to provoke public sympathy, that the 
family of the man killed in some petty, daily mishap 
should starve while the Hartley widow enjoyed a 
pension large enough to tempt the bigamous ad- 
venturer. A burst of new enthusiasm, a rush of 
members, assured the continuance of the "Provident." 
From its earliest days it had refused to mix in 
trade disputes. From the first it had enjoyed the 
support of some owners. Yet it was looked on by 
many with suspicion. If it incurred the distrust of 
some owners it was not strange that to many of 
the pitmen the "Provident" seemed a revival of 
union. For in outward form it was very similar; 
there were delegates, meetings, petitions, levies, and 
officials; there were funds, accounts, and weekly 
benefits. Moreover, a new evangel was being preached, 
as a solution of all industrial trouble. The followers 
of Robert Owen, the Christian Socialists, the weavers 
of Lancashire, all raised their voices in the cry for 
co-operation. There were distributive stores in plenty 
among the ship-builders of the Tyne. There had been 
experiments in production among the craftsmen of 
1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. 24th, 1862. 




Newcastle. In 1861, at Cramlington, a co-operative 
distributive store was opened, the first of its kind 
in a mining village 1 . 20 was subscribed, a committee 
elected, and a stock of groceries of the simplest kind 
bought. Fear and suspicion almost ruined the venture. 
The men were afraid that the committee would 
abscond, the committee that thieves would break in 
and steal the stock. All through the first night 
atchers sat on guard over the store, but its im- 
ediate success cleared away all doubts. Each week 
the orders doubled, and at the end of the first quarter 
there was a profit of 38. 155. lid. to be divided, or 
almost los. a member. Soon every pit-village had 
its store. The Methodist congregations furnished men 
for the management, men of known probity. The 
saving effected by the store was not the only object 
of the co-operators. Cash payments rescued the pit- 
wives from the debts at the village grocers, and for 
"the first time the pitman escaped from the bands 
of credit." Within a few years, to own the pits in 
which they worked was a very general ambition 
among the pitmen. 

But the elements of union began to collect again. 
It was seen that there was room for a trade society 
even among men who belonged to a store and sub- 
scribed to an insurance fund. In later years the store 
was often to be the strike larder, and the knowledge 
that he was in "The Provident" to hearten the miner 
to spend his savings in a strike. The new union had 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
P- 183. 

w 8 


J^Uttle connection with its predecessor. Roberts had 
taken himself to Lancashire, there again to play the 
part of the workman's champion. Jude was allowed 
"^to die in obscurity. The delegates came no longer to 
his tap-room, but met at the Victoria Hotel 1 . Since 
the great strike yearly bindings had been rare. The 
men worked as a rule under monthly agreements, 
but gradually in Durham the old system was revived, 
and in 1862 the owners gave notice that in Northum- 
berland too they intended to re-introduce the bond. 
The new generation would have none of it. What 
their fathers had thought security they called slavery, 
and they had no wish to sink to the low condition 
of their southern neighbours. On Christmas Day 
4000 men met at Harton, under the banners of '44. 
The third union had come to the birth 2 . 

In January, 1863, the delegates held their first 
meeting. Despite their fears that instant dismissal 
would follow disclosure of their names, they resolved 
to send a full report to the newspapers. The new 
leaders wished to make an end of the secrecy which 
had brought union into disfavour. To support the 
expected martyrs a "Victim Fund" 3 was established, 
but next month the name was removed. The men, 
indignant, had promised to stand so stoutly by their 
leaders that they had no fear of desertion. Towards 
the end of the year there were several strikes, marred 
here and there by riots. The Durham men asked to 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Jan. 1863. 

2 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 206. 

8 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Jan. and Feb. 1863. 


be allowed to join and 15,000 recruits were at once 
enrolled 1 . In October a strike began, which wrecked 
the young association 2 . 

Mr Love, the owner of the colliery where the strike 
commenced, had in his youth been a pitman. In 
1831 he was carried home shoulder high from a union 
meeting. In 1832 he promised to extend his credit 
to the utmost, to help the strikers. For he had left 

ie pits, and set up in a small general shop. A preacher 
the Plan of the New Connexion Methodists, fame 

id fortune came to him together. He married the 
daughter of a prosperous timber merchant, and again 
changed his trade. As a speculative builder on one 
contract for colliery houses he made a profit of 10 
a house, a return of over 30 per cent. he was rapidly 
amassing wealth, when he was mined by a bank 
failure. Nothing daunted, he took to the timber 
trade, as a dealer in pit props. Three years later, in 
1840, he bought the Brancepeth Colliery. It was a 
white elephant, notorious for its high working costs 
and poor returns. He built coke ovens, sent no more 
coal to the market, and soon a steady profit gave 
witness to his foresight. 

All his life Mr Love was a well-respected, highly 
religious man, living in Durham and delighting in 
simple hospitality. He found his main enjoyment in 
Methodism, and made foreign missions his particular 
care. In his later days he was very generous, building 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
pp. 219-223. 

a Durham Chronicle, Sept. i8th, 1863. 



schools and chapels, and in one year he gave no less 
than 73,000 to his church. But in October, 1863, 
his pitmen struck. For twenty years, they said, they 
had groaned under an ever-increasing harshness. They 
were not taught by union to strike; they united with 
that intention. 

The support offered them by all classes is ample 
proof of the truth of their story of grievance. It was 
the first strike in which the newspapers were entirely 
on the side of the men. Managers spoke from their 
platforms and owners contributed to their relief. That 
Mr Love's business actions were in sharp contrast to 
the piety of his private life is in no way remarkable. 
He belonged to a school which had well learned the 
lesson, to hide from the right hand what its left hand 
did. John Bright opposed the Factory Acts. Cotton 
manufacturers raised funds to free the negro slaves. 
There is no doubt that Mr Love, active Methodist 
as he was, laid the foundations of the fortune which 
allowed him to be lavish in charity by a system of 
management so callously commercial that it passed 
unnoticed into absolute robbery. 

The men were paid for every tub sent full to the 
surface. Unless the coal was level with the top they 
were fined, and if they were fined the tub was con- 
fiscated, no pay being given for the hewing. The 
banksmen were given a small commission for every 
tub which they rejected. Few of the hewers earned 
more than 365. a fortnight and there were many with 
a wage as low as 22s. The men shewed pay-notes 
which proved that from everyone some five to ten 


tubs were confiscated each "pay." It was said openly 
that Mr Love made 5000 a year from coal for the 
hewing of which he paid not a farthing, and the 
estimate was never questioned. Fines were exacted 
at every colliery, and though always unpopular, they 
were not often opposed. It was apparent that the 
working cost was increased by a high proportion of 
poorly filled tubs, for putters' wages were paid not 
on the weight of the coal they moved but on the 
number of their journeys. But at Love's collieries 
the fines were impossibly large. The seams were low, 
the roads but three feet high, yet the tubs were 
expected to come to bank "Level Full." It was not 
possible to heap up the coal at the face, for it was 
knocked off when the tubs stuck in the low places. 
The long journey was certain to shake the coal closer 
together. In compensation, the men invented a prac- 
tice known as " Rocking the Tubs." Before a tub was 
given to the putter the man who had hewn it shook 
it violently up and down. At times he used a pit- 
prop as a lever. More often he sought the assistance 
of his neighbour. Some men actually crawled under 
the tubs and lifted them on their backs. But no 
rocking could equal the shakings on the ways. Only 
by chance did the tubs reach the shaft level full. The 
banksman was able to impose as many fines as he 
wished. There was a further grievance. Each year, 
though the hewing price remained the same, the tubs 
quietly increased in size. Starting at 8J cwt. they 
were now approaching ten. 

When the union was formed a new grievance came 


to embitter the relations of Mr Love and his men. 
The story of his youthful enthusiasm accorded as 
little with the actions of his mature years as did his 
religious zeal with his callous management. One man 
was "turned-off" for giving a travelling lecturer a 
bed; another dismissed on an unproved charge that 
he read the Miner's Advocate and preached union to 
the Irishmen. Mr Love had learned thirty years 
before how great a help was credit to striking pitmen. 
In his pit- villages most of the small tradesmen were 
his tenants. In any case, they worshipped at the 
chapel where he preached. He stopped credit more 
effectually than had Lord Londonderry, feudal 
magnate though Love might call him, in Radical 

Men were arrested, bailed, and released. Evictions 
began without delay, plainly as a counter-move to 
the strike, for the houses stood empty and it was 
weeks before the black-legs appeared. In the cold 
rain of a December day women and children were 
turned into the streets to shelter under the rude tents 
which the men made out of tables, and blankets, and 
the old four-poster beds. The union came promptly 
to their support. Pits levied themselves, each man 
paying from is. to 35. 3^. a fortnight. The news- 
papers, friendly from the first, opened a subscription 
list. The vicar wrote appealing for relief. His curate 
turned a chapel of ease into a dormitory. The Catholic 
priest came to the help of his flock. Mr Love at 
once stopped their allowance of coal. The strike 
spread to the other pits in the Brancepeth group. 


The men asked to be paid by weight. When their 
request was refused they offered to fill six sample 
tubs and thus ascertain what was their fair content 
after the jolting of the journey. That offer too was 
rejected. Other grievances were dragged into the 
fight. It was alleged, with some show of truth, that 
in Mr Love's pits there was small chance of promo- 
tion. All the smaller official positions were filled with 
friends and relations of the owner. The bad sanitation 
of the villages, the lack of schools, the absence of 
encouragement to self -improvement were all in turn 
the subject of comment. Mr Love wrote letters of de- 
fence at which the local newspapers jeered. He wrote 
to the Times, to find that even the London editors 
were on the side of the men. He said that the fines 
were distributed in charity, but no man had heard 
of it, and when the existence of a secret fund was 
proved it was remarked that very little of the money 
went to pitmen who were not Methodists. In any 
case the charitable spending of the fines did not excuse 
the harshness of their exaction, and if the owner did 
not profit by them he profited by the freely hewn 

His figures of wages were not accepted with the 
respect usually accorded to the owners' statements. 
There were always a few places in a pit where excep- 
tional wages could be earned, said the Newcastle 
Chronicle. Reporters, attracted by the encampment 
in the stubble fields, were shewn a notice on the 
chapel door of a missionary meeting at which Mr Love 
would take the chair. They did not fail to note the 


strange comparison. Nor did they forget the motto 
on the strikers' banner: "He that oppresseth the 
poor, reproacheth his maker." It was a shrewd blow 
at a Bible Christian. At a public meeting in New- 
castle a manager spoke in support of the strike, saying 
that "rocking the tubs" was a practice unknown at 
other collieries. When Mr Love published an advertise- 
ment offering good pay and houses to men willing 
to work it was placed next an article, descriptive of 
those same houses. 

Hovels, built back to back, with gardens overlaid with 
clinkers, with no privies, sties in which it was impossible 
for the inhabitants to maintain the ordinary decencies 
of life. 

Black-leg labour was imported and the pits began 
to work again. Sample tubs were filled, and a new 
standard offered to the men. They refused it: they 
would not trust the honesty of the officials who had 
made the test. They wished to be allowed to fill the 
tubs themselves, or better still, to send six rocked 
tubs to bank, empty them, fill them again, and so 
give ocular proof of the impositions from which they 
had suffered. But as Mr Love gave way the character 
of the strike changed. So many wild charges had 
been made, such grave irregularities attributed to 
either side, that neither party could obtain credit for 
its statements. More and more plainly the real issue 
emerged, union or no union. Other collieries were 
fired by the example of Brancepeth, and came out 
on strike. The public support began to diminish, the 
newspapers to repent of an enthusiasm, unprece- 


dented, and almost impossible to explain. Even the 
men had the cause of union less at heart than the 
desire for an increased wage. They began to desert, 
and sign the proffered bond. In January the strike 
was at an end. The men had made an end of extor- 
tion. They had slightly improved their condition. 
"Rocking the Tubs" was stopped for ever. But 
Mr Love had broken the union 1 . 

While Northumberland had remained quiet there 
had been another serious strike in Durham. There 
was the same soreness at the falling wage, the same 
dislike for the steady increase in the size of the tubs, 
the same tale of harsh management. The strike, which 
occurred at Spennymoor, was actually to compel the 
dismissal of the overman, Parker. The pitmen said 
he was incompetent. Plainly he was a bully. He had 
sent men to work where the ventilation was insuffi- 
cient. He had put others into places where a fall 
was imminent. When they had made protest he had 
laughed at their caution, saying that if the roof came 
down they could be got out in a few hours. The actual 
cause of the strike was a quarrel with some putters. 
Some accident blocked the roads, but he refused to 
allow them permission to "ride," that is, ascend the 
shaft. They entered the cage and were drawn away. 
When it reached the furnace outlet, where hot air, 
smoke, and gas poured out of the flue into the shaft, 
Parker signalled to the engineman to stop, reverse 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 226; The Durham Chronicle, Oct. i863~Jan. 1864; The 
Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Oct. 1863- Jan. 1864. 


his engine, and lower away. When the boys reached 
the bottom again, Parker greeted them with oaths 
and threats. His final "Aw'll scumfish ye" they took 
to be a proof that their partial suffocation, caused 
by the delay in the shaft, had been deliberate 1 . But 
their story never received the attention so freely 
given to that of Mr Love's rebellious men. It was 
seen to be an excuse for a strike, rather than a cause 
of resistance. 

But both strikes mark a change in public opinion. 
There was no more scornful comment on the delusions 
of union, the deceit of those designing men known 
as delegates, the dangers of combination. In the 
Newcastle Chronicle there was even an appreciative 
article in explanation of the rules of the Miners' 
Association. What harm could come from a union 
which had published so restrained a definition of its 
objects as "the protection of our labour, and the 
preservation of our lives " ? What condemnation could 
be pronounced on leaders who wrote "the committee 
would demurely advise the miners to avoid what are 
termed strikes, certain that in almost every instance 
they have been the bane, the curse, the ruin of the 
miners," and who urged the men to arbitration? In 
the whole northern coal-field "the strike had a 
salutary effect, the managers became much less 
stringent in the enforcement of confiscation." But 
the men of those collieries, accepting the benefit of 
union, yet deserted its ranks, driven out by the im- 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 232; Durham Chronicle, Nov. 2yth, 1863. 


position of strike levies. As Crawford, an early 
president of the Northumberland miners, and the 
founder of the first lasting union in Durham, very 
plainly expressed it: 

the Willington strike gave union its death-blow. In its 
original constitution the fatal mistake had been made, 
in imposing too small a subscription, \d. a pay. As a 
result frequent levies were necessary. Of the 15,000 new 
members who joined from Durham, 14,000 were at once 
on strike. 

In 1864 2000 men met on Framwellgate Moor to/ 
consider whether resistance should be made to the! 
Yearly Bond. The smallness of the attendance was 
an admission of the defeat of the union, the conductS 
of the meeting a plain proof. There was no set pro-3 
gramme. The proposals of the speakers were not well 
received. Hints of a strike were received with loud 
shouts of dissent. "De'il a strike, that would ne'er 
benefit us," cried the men, though they bore trium- 
phant a small model of two men rocking a tub. Nor 
were they in favour of the alternative. "Restriction. 
Destruction you mean," said one of the speakers 1 . 
The wage was too low for the men to covenant to 
earn less. As colh'ery after colliery in Durham signed 
the bond the men of Northumberland lost faith in 
their neighbours. They admitted that the retreat was 
not a proper subject for blame, that the Durham men 
had long been subject to a harder yoke. But their 
own masters had formed a union to resist strikes. 
Prepare to fight they must, and they were better 

1 Durham Chronicle, Feb. I2th, 1864. 

I2 4 


without costly and helpless allies. At a delegate 
meeting, in 1864, Thomas Burt, then a young man 
of twenty-two, proposed a secession. If it was the 
formal end of the Third Union, it was the beginning 
of the present " Northumberland Miners' Mutual Con- 
fident Association " 1 . 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
p. 247. 



WHEN the Durham men consented to be re- 
bound it seemed that union was for a third 
time dead. It was hard to believe that a boy of 
twenty-two could succeed where Jude and Hepburn 
had failed, or that industry and perseverance could 
triumph where enthusiasm had so often been defeated. 
The Northumberland Miners' Mutual Confident As- 
sociation could claim almost a hundred years of life. 
It chooses to pay tribute to the genius of Burt by 
dating its foundation to June, 1864, the month of 
the famous secession. Crawford might deny that the 
old union had been killed by the dissension of its 
leaders, but dissensions there had been 1 , and it was 
Burt's resolution which gave the men confidence to 
lay the axe to the roots and make a new beginning 
where a compromise would have meant a still more 
disastrous failure. With the older leaders the policy 
of limited outlook had seldom found favour. Their 
delight was in numerical strength, and constant op- 
position. Strikes, restriction, legal action were tried 
in turn, nor did any discovery of the bluntness of 
their weapons deter them from the battle. The 
policy of the new leaders was the quiet acquisition 
of strength in a small district. Strikes were to be 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June i8th, 1864. 


avoided at all costs. A high subscription was to 
be at once the means of building up a fund and 
a test of the firmness of the members. Too often 
in the past had the unions been destroyed by popu- 
larity. Men joined in a fit of enthusiasm or of rage. 
They had put nothing into the fund; they at once 
became dependent on it. It was lucky if the disap- 
pointment of their untutored expectations did not 
disgust them for ever with union. The aim of the 
new association was to win recognition from the 
owners by making plain the mutual advantage of 
agreement and good will. 

The first step was to reduce expenses. Sheldon, the 
agent, was asked to seek work. The miners were not 
dissatisfied with his efforts, but they feared that they 
could no longer pay him. It is a witness to the 
difference in spirit in Northumberland that he at 
once found work at Cowpen, though in Durham the 
known union men still found every pit closed to 
them. They became hawkers of tea or managers of 
the new stores, tiding over bad times until a union 
could be formed again. Crawford, later to be the 
maker of a strong union in Durham, was for a time 
secretary to the Northumberland Society. To keep 
alive the idea of combination he wrote a series of 
letters to the Newcastle newspapers 1 . There were two 
improvements suggested, a reduction in the length 
of the. boys' day and a change in the hour at which 
the hewers went to work. At two o'clock the first 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June 25th, 1864, and for 
some weeks. 


shift descended the shaft, and there was little excuse 
for maintaining a custom which was little more than 
a ridiculous survival. Perhaps Crawford remembered 

ic "derisive laughter" which had greeted his speech 
it a Miners' Conference held at Leeds the year before, 
starting with the popular demand for shorter hours 
ic had made a proposal ridiculous in the ears of 

icn unacquainted with the two-shift system of the 
lorthern pits. A ten-hour day for the boys seemed to 

lem too long, where the men worked six. 

But Crawford's faith in the future was not strong 
enough to support him in what seemed a hopeless 
task. Next year he resigned, to take an offered post 
as the manager of the Blythe Co-operative Store, and 
Burt took charge of the union. Almost at once, with 
but 23 in the funds, he was called on to conduct 
the most bitter and prolonged strike which Northum- 
berland has ever known. At Cramlington, an exten- 
sive colliery, five villages stood side by side, each at 
its own pit-head 1 . For some time the men had made 
no resistance to a fall in their wage, though it con- 
tinued until they received but 45. a day, in a district 
where 55. and 6s. was the rule 2 . Only at one pit, 
West Cramlington, was this passive policy despised. 
There the men had struck twenty-three times in 
twenty-two years. Suddenly they struck again, some 
600 of them, and the strike spread to the other 
villages. For sixteen weeks the pits lay idle, then, 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, 
pp. 248-253. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Nov. 25th, 1865. 


after an attempt at arbitration, the owners gave 
notice to the men to leave their houses. The bailiffs 
appeared, hawkers and beggars who had long been 
known in the district. One was an Irish ballad singer 
who had for years lived on the charity of the pit- 
wives. For a time the men stood quiet while the 
bailiffs, known in every later strike as candymen, 
carried the furniture into the street. Then some boys 
released the colliery horses from a neighbouring field, 
and drove them galloping through the streets 1 . 
A party of stout lads barricaded the door of a house. 
A wordy dispute quickened into a fierce battle, and 
a shower of stones drove the evicting party away. 

The police seized the leaders of the riot, but with 
threat of battle the pitmen obtained their release. 
For a week the evictions were suspended, then the 
candymen appeared again, with a much stronger 
escort of police. Again there was a riot, and it was 
not until a force of soldiers was sent that the owners 
were able to turn out the families which remained. 
Shelter was soon found for the women. The young 
men were advised to emigrate, the older ones to seek 
work in other collieries. The mechanics struck, and 
they too were evicted. The rioters, whom the pitmen 
had bailed at the cost of 200, were tried, and three 
were sent to prison. In December, when the strike 
was entering its sixth month, 300 strangers appeared 
in the village 2 . Some were Dorset farm labourers, 

1 David Addy, "Dusty Diamonds" (True Tales from Pit 

1 Durham Chronicle, Dec. 8th, 1865. 


but the majority were tin-miners from Cornwall, 
whom an agent had enticed from their homes by a 
promise of high wages. They were given pit clothes 
and under the direction of the officials they started 
to hew. Almost at once the union persuaded a 
hundred of them to return. For some of the strangers 
were union men, unwilling to be used as strike 
breakers even amongst " foreigners." A fortnight later 
a hundred more Cornishmen appeared, bringing with 
them their wives and their children 1 . 

A few of the strikers returned to work, lured by 
the promise of a deputy's place with "its upstannen 
wage, and the dooble hoose in Quality Raa 2 ." But it 
was that most obstinate of all strikes, a strike against 
a falling standard of life, and the married men were 
its leaders. For over a year it continued, until every 
one of the strikers had found other work. It cost the 
union some 4000, but the drain on the funds proved 
an unexpected source of strength. For, with a strike 
levy of is. 6d. a week, there was a rush of new members 
anxious to help in the struggle. There could be no 
doubt of their good will when they joined to con- 
tribute so heavy a share of their wages. All the local 
patriotism of the north was aroused by the coming 
of the "Cornishers." They were foreigners, dark 
haired, dark eyed, wearing duck jackets and trousers 
in the place of the shorts and the pit flannels. They 
spoke a language hard to understand. Their wives, 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham. 

2 David Addy, "Dusty Diamonds"; R. Fynes, The Miners 
of Northumberland and Durham : p. 253. 

w 9 

1 3 o 


said the Northumberland women, were little better 
than gypsies, with their gold ear-rings, and their 
sallow skins. They could not bake their own bread 
that simple test in the north of good house-keeping 
Yet they could make pasties far beyond the skill o 
the pit-wives, whose cooking, good as it is, is limitec 
in its range. The men set to work to whitewash the 
houses, that they might a little resemble the cottages 
they had left behind. They had none of that feeling 
still strong in the north, that a man has amply per 
formed his share of the marriage compact when he 
has handed over to his wife the bulk of his earnings 
They did not shame to help their wives to wash, or 
even to cook. They lived as strangers in their village 
as one by one the old hands came back to the pit 
which was their home. At every excuse there were 
fights. The children were sent to different schools 
though it meant a daily walk of several miles. Three 
years later a man who was fined for selling beer 
without a licence pleaded that the Cornishmen darec 
not go into the public houses. Not until the children 
married did the hatred die down. The store, the pride 
of Cramlington, had been closed to the strangers. So 
had the chapels. There was to be many a battle at 
Co-operative committee meetings, when some Cornish 
man became the son-in-law of an old member. Anc 
in the class meetings of the Methodists there was 
many a struggle with the conscience which remindec 
its owner that a black-leg had a soul to be saved, i 
indeed, he had not already felt the joy of conversion 
At first the pitmen stoutly maintained their belie 


that the strangers could not acquire the skill neces- 
sary for hewing. But they learned fast, and they had 
mch to teach in return, in stone-work, and timbering, 
the use of the heavy hand drills. Some years 
ter, when there was a fresh influx of strangers, a 
Ler at a meeting of protest was interrupted by 
>uts that the Cornishers were as good men as those 
icy had supplanted. But if the owners won it was 
at a high price. Before the strike good workmen 
had earned but 2. 155. a fortnight, less a sum which 
reached at times 95., for that collection of small dues 
known as off-takes, rent, doctor, powder, and a dozen 
other items whose uncertainty was long a subject of 
complaint. In the new year the Cornishmen were 
earning 3. 55. gd., yet they had to be hauled into the 
courts to keep them to their bargain 1 , while the men 
who went back to the pits were paid gd. a tub, or 
i}d. more than they had demanded. Meantime, the 
removal of the surplus labour from the West made 
it possible for the tin-miners to start a strike, watched 
with glee by the pitmen, who saw in it a revenge on 
the Cornish mine-owners. 

Next year at Blythe, where the miners assembled 
for what was to become an annual pic-nic, Burt was 
able to tell them that though the enthusiasm had 
died down there were still 3000 men in the union, 
and that despite the heavy strike expense the fund 
had reached 1000. By the end of 1867 the fund had 
more than doubled, and in March, 1868, it had doubled 
again. There were at this date 4577 members, and 
1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April 2ist, 1866. 




4305 in the funds. Moreover, a small increase in 
wages had been obtained, without even the threat of 
a strike 1 . But such peace could not be expected to 
last. At Seaton Delaval the old grievance of fines 
and confiscations appeared again. In six months the 
hewers were fined 500, and of the tubs which they 
hewed a tenth was confiscated. Instead of a strike 
Burt ordered a demonstration. The whole of the 
members of the union assembled at Seaton, 5000 of 
them, marching from their special trains with bands 
and banners. " Wisdom is better than strength, never- 
theless the wisdom of the poor man is despised, and 
his words not heard" 2 said one. Its words were 
prophetic. Months later the grievance was still un- 
abated. Burt openly said that it was maintained in 
the hope of provoking a strike and bringing the union 
to ruin. The persistence of the quarrel can better be 
explained by the men's dislike of the manager. He 
it was who told the commission on popular education 
that the long hours of the boys were so little detri- 
mental to their health that " they ran about like hares 
when they left the pits." If they ran, said the men, 
they ran to get back to bed. 

In 1870 there was a strike at Backworth over the 
difficulty of hewing. The men said that the seams 
were so hard that the wage current in the district 
was insufficient for the seams they worked. They 
struck: quietly they submitted to eviction. A few 
strangers appeared, this time from Derbyshire, and 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June I3th, 1868. 

2 Ibid, Sept. 5th, Oct. loth, 1868. 


the matter was settled by compromise 1 . The wages 
were left at the old level, but it was agreed that the 
men were not to be sent again into the hard places. 
At the reckoning day that year the fund was found 
to have reached 6500, and prosperity brought a 
new tone of confidence into the speeches 2 . The Mines 
Regulation Bill was being fought through the Com- 
mons, and after a few words of thanks for the in- 
>trial peace of the past year Burt sketched a plan 
campaign for the immediate future. "A miner's 
fe," said he, "is as valuable as that of a bishop," 
and in the Mines Bill several important amendments 
were necessary. If the parliament wished to make 
a practical reform it should extend the vote to the 
pitman, and listen to his opinion on matters which 
so closely affected his life. Another year passed with- 
out trouble. Thirty thousand people attended the 
annual demonstration, which seemed to have become 
a county holiday. This time the subject of complaint 
was the duration of the miner's life. While the 
agricultural labourer could expect to attain the age 
of 47 the average life of the miner was as little 
as 27 years. It was partly the fault of the poor 
housing, for if the new cottages were a credit to the 
owners most of the old ones were only fit for stables. 
But the union leaders made further suggestion. They 
wished that the law would take the pit-boy under 
its protection as it had done the lad in the factory. 
The one had his day fixed, the other worked from 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, May 2ist, June 4th, 1870. 

2 Ibid. June i8th, 1870. 


4 a.m. to 6 p.m., and there was no good reason why 
even that time should not be exceeded. Meantime 
a practical argument was advanced for a change in 
the hour at which the men started work. Two in the 
morning was the traditional time, and on Monday 
many of the pitmen were absent. It was hinted that 
not all the absentees were idle, or drunken, but that 
many a man who used his week-end to visit his friends 
remained deaf to the early caller 1 . 

By his consistency, skill, and' moderation Burt at 
last persuaded the owners that it was better to deal 
with a disciplined body of pitmen under his command 
than to continue to oppose the union in the hope of 
bringing back the old anarchy. At Newcastle a meeting 
was arranged between the Steam Coal Association 
and the union leaders, and by peaceful agreement 
two important reforms were quietly made. The time 
of the beginning of the shift was changed to 4 a.m., 
though its duration remained unchanged. On the 
demand for a reduction in the boys' hours agreement 
was less easy. At first the men asked for a reduction 
from 12 to 10. In the end n was accepted 2 . 

Next year saw the amazing spectacle of a coal- 
owner building a hall as a meeting-place for the local 
lodge of the union. In his opening speech he declared 
that it was for their use alike in times of agreement 
and of difference. It was better to have strike 
meetings in a public hall than in a public-house. 
Meantime Burt began his first battle with the mal- 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, July 27th, 1871 

2 Ibid. Dec. gth, 1871. 


contents in the union. The feeling spread among the 
ignorant that the sudden change in the owners' 
attitude was compelled by the consciousness of the 
strength of their opponents. Not every man shared 
Hurt's desire for moderation and peace; there were 
many who thought that a timely threat would win 
a better share in the new prosperity which so plainly 

msed. In the local newspapers anonymous letters 
in to appear attacking a union secretary who 
so high in the owners' good graces. When one 
lodge proposed that his wage should rise with the 
rising wages of the pitmen, there were angry protests 
that the agent received enough for his easy life. In 
the end Burt was compelled to turn and defend him- 
self 1 . After an attack on that worst of all tyrants, 
the working man, Burt laid down the conditions on 
which he was prepared to continue in his office. He 
was to be protected from attack. If his wage remained 
unchanged he was to be allowed the liberty of thinking 
himself underpaid. And, said he, 

I shall at all times claim the liberty of speaking as I think 
on every question. I will not consent to become the mere 
tool and mouthpiece of any man or body of men. What 
I am convinced is right, that will I ever advocate to the 
best of my ability 2 . What I am convinced is wrong, that 
I shall ever oppose, whether it be popular or unpopular. 

At the gala, held in June, he was loudly cheered. 
There were 9000 men in the union, and 11,000 in 
the funds 3 . There had been no strike, but in April 

1 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham, p. 255. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April I3th, 1872. 

3 Ibid. June isth, 1872. 



there had been a meeting with the owners of so 
formal a nature that the union could boast at last 
that it had attained a share in the conduct of the 
coal-trade. Ten demands the men had made; seven 
of them the owners at once conceded. And in the 
later months of the year the owners, after prolonged 
discussion, allowed the justice of the demand for a 
wage increase of 20 per cent. Alone in England the 
Northern miners had not been induced by high wages 
to reduce their output 1 . The union was formally asked 
to exert its influence to maintain this desirable in- 
dustry, and to check, by every persuasion in its 
power, idleness, and unwarranted stoppages. 


The Ten Demands 

(1) The coal should be filled as it was won, and the 
small no longer separated from the round. 

Agreed, but the price to be reduced id. a ton. 

(2) Equal prices to be paid for working in the whole, 
and the broken. 

No. The broken (i.e., the district already partly won) 
was easier to work, and it produced more small coal, 
for which the full market price was never obtained. 

(3) The practice of " nicking " was to be discontinued, and 
"shooting fast" allowed, i.e., the men were to be allowed 
to put in a charge, and shoot down the coal, with an under- 
cut alone, and no vertical cut at the side of the block. 

No, for it shattered the coal, and reduced its value, 
making it less able to bear transport. 

(4) A fortnightly agreement was to be allowed in the 
place of the monthly contracts in vogue. 

Yes, but all notices were to be given at the " Pay." 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, July 2oth, 1872. 


(5) The 10 per cent, wage advance, just gained, should 
be given to the off-hand men also (i.e. not to the hewers 
alone) . 

Yes. Most owners had done so from the first. 

(6) The 10 per cent, advance was to be inserted in the 


(7) Boys were not to work more than 9 hours on 


(8) The system of paying putters by "Renk" (i.e. by 
results, on a scale governed by the length of their average 
journey) was to be re-established. 

Yes, but the precise length of the "renk" was 
first to be decided. 

(9) Any doctor's certificate should be accepted, as an 
excuse for absence, and a warrant for the demand for 
"smart money" (i.e. weekly compensation for accident 
disability) . 


(10) Single men were to be given an allowance as 
lodging money, and an equivalent for the rent allowed 
to the married men. 


(5), (6) and (7) were temporary matters. 

(2), (4), (8) and (9) have remained in their essentials, 
thus decided. 

(i) and (3) have more than once produced later trouble, 
but the owners' arguments have prevailed, for they are 
almost impossible to controvert. 

(10) Remains as a recurring grievance among the young 
men. It receives small sympathy from the married, and 
there are few men who remain single after they become 
hewers. Moreover a high proportion of the young men 
live with their parents, not on a strict commercial footing, 
while their parents get either the "free house," or the 
allowance in lieu. 



IN Durham the union died, for there the yearly 
bond, refused by the men north of the Tyne, 
had been successfully re-imposed. Every April the 
manager of each colliery read aloud to his assembled 
men the terms of service for the coming year. The 
bond which the men were required to sign was a 
long document. It covered in a strange mixture of 
legal and technical phrase both sides of a closely 
printed sheet. It opened with a description of the 
manner of working, and a statement of the hewing 
and putting prices. Clause after clause followed until 
no matter seemed to be left open for dispute. From 
the demand that hewers should at need undertake 
work of any kind the clauses turned to such trivialities 
as the restraints on keeping dogs and pigeons in 
colliery houses. In most cases the bond was read 
in a hurried, unmeaning manner. Few of the men, 
except those immediately surrounding the manager, 
could hear his words. Even if he began in a loud 
tone it was impossible to continue the monotonous 
repetition in a voice at once audible and emphatic. 
Often the reading was badly contrived with intent 
to make unpleasant conditions unintelligible. 

Year after year the men engaged themselves under 
a contract the terms of which were almost unknown 


to them. Many of them could neither read nor write, 
but it was rare that a request for a copy of the bond 
was given a favourable hearing. The first few sentences 
told them whether their wages were to remain un- 
altered, but the long series of fines and drawbacks 
was passed unregarded. At the famous Thornley trial 
the magistrates said that no man would make an agree- 
ment which he was plainly unable to fulfil. But the 
men willingly signed bonds, ignorant of the confis- 
catory fines and the penalties to which they had 
submitted themselves, and many a bond, cheerfully 
signed, produced a strike after a few weeks of trial. 
In some places the men accepted the invitation to 
sign "the same bond as last year," forgetting that 
many a small increase of pay had been granted of 
which the bond made no mention. Such a bond, 
when enforced by a new official, might change the 
whole conditions of their service, yet if the men 
struck they could make no good defence at their 
trial. In the face of their oath that some newly en- 
forced condition was strange to the customs of the 
mine the manager could produce bonds in which the 
supposed innovation was plainly mentioned year after 

Moreover until the bond was abolished united 
action by the men of the whole county was difficult, 
if not impossible. For a strike could only legally be 
called by refusing to sign the bond for the coming 
year. Yet in Durham as much as a month interposed 
between the signing of the first and the last bond, 
and in every strike there were men confronted by the 


dilemma that they must strike and break their con- 
tract, or work on and injure the cause of their com- 
rades. Or, if the strike was commenced pit by pit, 
the strength of unanimous action was denied to the 

It was not easy to persuade the men to refuse the 
bond. At the binding time the officials were wise 
enough to put on their most affable manner, and at 
many of the pits a friendship had grown up between 
the men and the manager which made it hard for 
them to resist his persuasions. Beer in abundance 
washed down any dislike of his proposals, and the 
offer of a guinea to the first man who signed the bond 
ensured a rush at the opening of the office door, a 
rush in which the drunken, the selfish, and the 
excited swept away the waverers, still revolving ob- 
noxious conditions in their hesitating minds. 

In Durham there were many factors tending to 
disunion. The collieries were newer than in Northum- 
berland, the men less settled. There is steady com- 
plaint from the philanthropic that the habit of annual 
migration made social improvement impossible. The 
rate of wages was low when compared with that which 
obtained north of the Tyne, a proof, said many, that 
the work in the coking collieries required a smaller 
degree of strength and skill. But some blame for this 
difference must be attached to the Irish immigrants. 
They were strangers, possessed of a low standard of 
life. Their religion denied them the comradeship of 
the chapel, and of its adjunct the store. They lived 
in the worst and most insanitary houses. They re- 


mained in the most wretched poverty. They could 
not benefit from that curious association of ideas 
which confounded the spending of money with the 
vice upon which it was spent, as did the Methodist, 
who was apt to believe that narrow economy was 
in itself a virtue. If to the Irishman the wages 
seemed high, he spent them freely: whisky gave him 
more pleasure than a bank-book. As a result, the 
Irishmen surpassed the pitmen in the violence of 
their amusements. Every prizefight had its principals 
with Irish names, every pay night brought its crop 
of drunken brawls, faction fights, and religious riots. 
In later years it was with difficulty that the radical 
politicians of the north stilled with their home rule 
arguments the local outcry against the immigrants. 
When, in December 1864, a conference was called of 
the Miners' National Union but one man appeared 
from Durham, E. Rhymer, the delegate of the men 
of Spennymoor. He could see no hope of future 
union. "Ignorance, cowardice, and drunken habits" 
made the pitmen accept without resentment wages 
which fell as low as 2s. a day, and which never ex- 
ceeded 45. 6d. 1 Poverty, stupidity, and greed made 
them dependent on the wages of children who worked 
twelve, fourteen, and sixteen hours a day. 

1866 was a year of growing prosperity. There were 
the usual meetings, held just before the bond expired, 
and the usual resolutions, calling for certain obvious 
reforms. But the demand for better sanitation in the 
miners' dwellings was given unusual prominence, and 
1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Nov. 25th, 1865. 

I 4 2 


a hint of the Northumberland example appeared in 
the request for alteration in the hour of the fore- 
shift's descent. But in the enjoyment of "remunera- 
tion which would have seemed fabulous to their 
ancestors" 1 the Durham pitmen remained deaf to 
the advice of the Miners' National Union, that it was 
time for them to re-organize. Next year the pros- 
perity began to fail, and the National Union tried 
again. It held its annual conference at Durham, 
thinking by this invasion to rouse the Durham men 
>m their apathy 2 . But the failure of a spontaneous 
effort, earlier in the year, had left a stronger impres- 
sion. In March the men of Shotton had struck, in 
protest against a wage reduction of is. a day, which 
they thought unwarranted by the bond they had so 
recently signed 3 . Six men were arrested, tried, and 
sent to prison for a month. Ten days later twelve 
more of the strikers were brought to the sessions at 
Castle Eden. They too went to prison: they asked 
for an adjournment, to give them time to obtain the 
help of Mr Roberts. It was denied them. A week 
later, when Mr Roberts had arrived, two more 
offenders presented themselves for trial. The bench 
adjourned the case for a week. The surrender of the 
men had been so unexpected that the owners had not 
retained a lawyer. It appeared that the men had 
been told by the viewer that the hewing prices would 
be those which had obtained the year before. They 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. 5th, 1866. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Nov. i6th, 1867. 

3 Durham Chronicle, March 3rd, April iyth, 1867. 


had signed the bond and had found that their wages 
had fallen. But the sworn testimony of the men was 
of little weight when opposed by the written text 

of their own agreement. To free the prisoners the \ 

men consented to return to work. Mr Roberts had 
done little except launch a violent attack on the 
partiality of the bench. "The magistrates," said he, 
"were hand in hand with the coal-owners" 1 . 

Next year the men of Shotton struck again. They 
pretended they had no faith in the colliery doctor, 
and they asked to be allowed to choose another. There 
was a widespread impression, which had some ap- 
pearance of truth, that the owners used the doctors' 
posts as convenient sinecures for their friends, who 
drew the money and sent, as their representatives, 
poorly-paid unqualified assistants. A friendly agree- 
ment settled this quarrel, but near at hand a new 
dispute arose. For some time distress had been 
rapidly increasing at the Castle Eden collieries, and 
at last the curate in charge had established a soup 
kitchen. He appealed to the owner, Mr Burdon, for 
help, which was denied him. There was a simple 
remedy for the distress, said Mr Burdon; the men 
should leave the colliery, or apply for poor relief 2 . 
A fierce correspondence began, the owner denying, 
the curate asserting, that he had made the state- 
ment. It was watched with the greater interest, 
because Burdon was the magistrate at whom most 
of Mr Roberts' remarks had been aimed. 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. 23rd, 1868. 

8 Ibid. March 5th, 1869, and several weeks. 


At the binding there was a general wage reduction 
of 10 per cent. 1 , and at Thornley, where the reduction 
was greater, the men struck a few days after signing 
the bond. Their leaders were brought before the 
Castle Eden bench and after a few minor alterations 
in the bond the men consented to return to work. 
In July a formidable strike began which was to have 
far-reaching results. 

Burt might be opposed to a strike policy, but the 
Northumberland Union had been established by a 
strike. The Durham Miners' Association, from the 
first keenly desirous of peace, was founded in a bitter 
trade war. In 1869 the men of Monkwearmouth 
struck. They had signed a new bond in March, in 
May they were convinced that it was an unworkable 
agreement, and that the wages it assured them were 
insufficient to maintain their families. In those days 
the magistrates' courts were used as informal arbitra- 
tion tribunals. The merits of a strike were decided 
by the trial of such leading men as the owners thought 
fit to prosecute for breach of contract. At the trial of 
the Monkwearmouth leaders two old opponents faced 
one another, Heckles the viewer, and Mr Roberts. 
For it was Heckles' economies which had provoked 
the strike. In the three years of his management 
wages had fallen 32 per cent., and while the case was 
still being heard the evictions began. And it was 
Roberts whom the pitmen brought to defend the 
prisoners. This time he did not repeat the success of 

1 Durham Chronicle, March I2th, 1869; Newcastle (Weekly) 
Chronicle, June 5th, 1869. 


the Thornley case. The magistrates had seen the folly 
of intolerance. Mr Roberts began by saying he would 
make no formal defence, he had not read the bond. 
He was countered by an offer of a copy, and of im- 
mediate adjournment for a fortnight for its study. 
It was fine bombast to declare that "he was right glad 
of this case, the fourth estate would record it ; he was 
working for posterity" but the men were not "pre- 
pared to establish in martyrdom the strength of their 
case " whatever their lawyer might assert. They cared 
little for posterity, and even less for martyrdom. 
Next week Roberts was offering "to do anything to 
save those poor men from imprisonment." In a last 
collision with Heckles the case ended. "At the cry 
that the poor only were suffering, one of their op- 
pressors grinned. That grin was from ignorance, 
tobacco and drink." Heckles could afford to smile, 
as with every word Roberts made himself more 
ridiculous in the eyes of his clients. After this case 
the pitman's Attorney-General appeared no more in 
the north, and the newspapers spoke truth when 
they said that no one was sorry. For if he did not 
produce disturbance his coming was always the sign 
of unrest 1 . *> 

The strike killed the bond. In open court the 
owners/Jasyer had said that it was time an end was 
made of a system which seemed to provoke more 
trouble than it pretended to prevent 2 . The men 
returned to work at the old prices of 1867. They 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June 26th, 1869. 

2 Ibid. Sept. Qth, 1869. 

w 10 


had formed a union, and this much it had been able 
to win for them, but it was not strong enough to 
compel the re-employment of the leaders. One was 
established in a small shop, the other, Richardson, 
was made a permanent union agent at a weekly wage 
of i. 1 8s. 3d. 1 The union steadily won recruits, when, 
in its growing strength, it was confronted by a familiar 
peril. The men of the north-east of the county had 
no sooner joined than they called a strike 2 . Richardson 
was unable to control them. It was felt that a man 
with some financial training would be a better agent 
than a simple pitman. Crawford's name was sug- 
gested. He was offered the post, and as soon as he 
was able to leave the Blythe Co-operative store he 
accepted it, to begin his life work, the firm foundation 
of the Durham Miners' Association 3 . 

In October letters from the new secretary began 
to appear in every local newspaper. They were mostly 
directed against the bond. "It had been the curse, 
the withering, blighting curse, of thousands of 
miners" 4 . Crawford was convinced of the wisdom of 
caution. He made ready to enforce a policy of rigid 
economy and of peace, but he was not wholly in 
sympathy with the ideas of his northern neighbour 
Burt. He was old enough to have some of the idealisi 
of those early leaders, whose enthusiasm had directe< 
the strikes of 1831 and 1832. As a boy he had share< 
in those strikes, and since that day "he had nevei 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. 2oth, 1869. 2 Ibid. Oct. ist, i8( 

3 R. Fynes, The Miners of Northumberland and Duv) 
pp. 258-59. 

4 Durham City and County News, Aug. 1870, onwards. 


flinched from the union cause." He was not so far 
blinded by the philosophy of the Manchester radicals 
as to lose the root idea which he shared with the 
Owenite socialists that there was some fundamental 
fallacy in the laws of a political economy which denied 
to the poor man the right to a decent life. He relied 
far more than Burt on emotional appeal, and the 
violence of his language was perhaps the best weapon 
for arousing the Durham men from their apathy. The 
county was too far behind Northumberland for the 
slow methods of Burt to be effective. Crawford saw 
that his task was to build up a strong union before 
the coming prosperity should shew signs of decay, 
and to win, by threat if need be, a share in the conduct 
of the coal-trade, for time did not allow of the slow 
building up of confidence between master and man. 

In the early months of 1870 the union grew rapidly. 
Mass meetings were held to protest against the pro- 
posed Mines Regulation Act, and to pass resolutions 
asking for the abolition of the bond. A delegate 
meeting in January reported that there were then 
2500 members 1 . A month later a thousand recruits 
had been enrolled. But the size of the fund showed 
how new was the strength of the union. There was 
but 80 in the hands of the officials, and out of that 
a grant was to be made for the support of the striking 
miners of Yorkshire. Following the signing of the 
bond in April there was a sudden decline in member- 
ship, for many of the abuses had been removed and 
the prices offered were a little more generous. At 

1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. 2ist, 1870. 

10 2 


Thornley the check-weigher was provided with a copy 
of the bond a fortnight before the binding day. Later 
he was given an attested copy for use in case of dis- 
pute 1 . At Tudhoe "the bond was read quite slowly 
and distinctly, so that ah* could hear," and the men 
were given an opportunity of discussing its condi- 
tions. But the Wearmouth men struck again. Since 
the fight of the year before they had worked on fort- 
nightly agreements. They claimed that their wages 
were still is. 6d. a day less than the county average, 
but their success in resisting the reduction of the 
year before was used as an argument against their 
claim to share in the advance of 1870. Six hundred 
of them struck. Eviction soon drove back the weak- 
hearted, while strangers from Wolverhampton filled 
the places of the determined 2 . Work was quietly 
resumed on the manager's terms. 

In June the Durham Union put its affairs in order. 
The county was divided into three districts and an 
agent appointed for each. Their weekly wage was 
fixed at i. 55. 6d., and their authority was increased 
by a new rule that any colliery which struck in an 
"unconstitutional manner" should be denied union 
aid 3 . In September there was a short strike at Sheriff 
Hill, provoked by a threat of wage reduction, and 
later in the year a disturbance arose at Thornley 
which lasted through the winter 4 . Of the half-yearly 
income 674, or more than half, was spent in these 

1 Durham Chronicle, March 4th, 1870. 

8 Ibid. April I5th, 22nd, 1870. 3 Ibid. June loth, 1870. 

4 Ibid. Sept. 1 6th, 1870. 


disputes, and the membership fell from nearly 4000 
to 1891 1 . At Brancepeth three men were given notice 
for "connecting themselves with, and advocating the 
principles of, the miners' union" 2 . The first excite- 
ment was over, and the apathy of the men was slowly 
discouraging the agents. "At the meetings, they were 
often insulted, and sometimes maltreated, by the 

len they had come to help" 3 . Crawford tried in vain 
to interest the county in the Thornley strike. It had 

ien begun by the refusal of the manager to provide 
the hewers with a copy of the bond. In angry letters 
to a weekly newspaper, but recently established in 
Durham, Crawford expanded his text, that "any 
employer who thinks it beneath him to meet his 
workmen ought to think it beneath him to profit by 
their labour" 4 . 

Perhaps these letters had their effect. A successful 
meeting was held at Tantobie. Tommy Ramsay, a 
veteran of the three defeated unions, drew the men 
together. In the Miners' Hall at Durham there is a 
picture of this old warrior, who for years tramped 
from village to village, preaching the need for com- 
bination. There he stands, in his Sunday Blacks and 
his top hat, a roll of hand-bills in one hand, the 
" Corn-Crake of Union " in the other, that policeman's 
rattle which was used to attract the men from their 
houses and the inn parlours. Mostly he preached 
from the same text: "Lads, combine, and better 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Dec. loth, 1870. 

2 Durham City and County News, Dec. Qth, 1870. 

* J. Wilson, History of Durham Miners' Association. 
4 Durham City and County News, April I4th, 1871. 


your condition. When eggs are scarce, eggs are dear. 
When men are scarce, men are dear." His speeches, 
full of rough humour, were delivered in the broadest 
dialect of the pits. At this meeting he warned the 
men against the wiles of the officials. "I'll give thou 
a deputty's place, I'll give thou stonework. Thou's 
sittin' in thee own leet" 1 . It was by such dishonest 
promises that doubtful men were weaned from the 
union. And he brought out the unanswerable argu- 
ment that the Northumberland men, who were united, 
had a wage 30 per cent, higher than was current 
south of the Tyne. Tommy Ramsay's creed was 
summed up in a speech which he delivered at a 
strange debate at Gateshead, at which Cowen had 
collected most of the workmen's leaders from the 
Tyneside. "Yor maisters hes nowt to dee wi yor 
wages." So long, said he, as men's labour was bought 
and sold, so long would strikes continue 2 . 

In August 7000 men assembled at Durham to hear 
a speaker whom the union had brought from Stafford- 
shire, Willy Brown, the Midland miners' agent 3 . He 
provided them with a new text: " It's the big worker 
who brings prices down," and he taught them a new 
song, for at his meetings songs and speeches were 
mixed, in curious imitation of a Methodist revival. 
"Britons sons, though slaves ye be" was to be the 
Marseillaise of the revolt against the yearly bond. 
Meantime Crawford was preaching in every village 

1 Durham City and County News, June gth, 1871. 
8 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Feb. ist, 1868. 
3 Durham City and County News, Aug. i8th, 1871. 


the doctrine of more money for less work. All his 
life he reserved his worst abuse for the public-house 
boaster, who to make good his pay-night vaunts, 
"on a Monday would hew coal till he vomited 
blood" 1 . By leaps and bounds the demand for coal 
grew, and work became so plentiful that pitmen 
were imported from both Lancashire and the Forest 
of Dean. Their coming was little resented, in fact the 
Gloucestershire men were praised as the best men who 
ever came to the north, and a curious intimacy began 
between the two coal-fields. In December a delegate 
meeting announced that there was 1200 in the funds, 
and that the membership, which had once sunk to 
1616, was now over io,ooo 2 . The bindings of 1872 
were eagerly awaited. At every colliery meetings were 
called to protest against the system of the Yearly 
Bond. Preparations were beginning for a new struggle. 
Suddenly, in February, the coal-owners invited the 
Durham agents to a conference. 

Ten delegates went to Newcastle, to speak for 
20,000 miners. They were told that there was no 
desire to force on the men a new bond, that it was 
time a better system of hiring was devised, and that 
a reduction was made in the hours of work. "The 
most pleasant and amicable feeling prevailed on both 
sides." The owners professed a desire that their men 
should be given a share in the prosperity of the trade. 
An advance in wages, of 20 per cent., was freely 
granted. Fortnightly agreements were substituted 

1 Durham City and County News, Sept. 8th, 1871. 
8 Ibid. Dec, 8th, 1871. 


for the bond. Within a month the wage advance was 
extended to all underground workers, and a smaller 
advance, of 12 J per cent., was given to the surface 
workers. All that was asked of the agents was that 
they would exert themselves to prevent idleness, and 
to reduce to a minimum the number of petty local 
strikes. News of this success brought 8000 men into 
the union, and almost at once the agents were called 
on to fulfil their share of the bargain. They condemned 
a hasty strike at Haswell. They refused to give strike 
pay to the men of Littleburn, who had rejected an 
award made by Crawford himself. Everywhere they 
preached against the doctrine of restriction, which 
the hewers advanced to justify their idleness. All the 
relief they allowed the men was the admission that it 
was no longer necessary to do a day and a half's work 
for a day's wages. But this revolution of opinion did 
not convert every one to the cause of union. A series 
of letters appeared in the newspapers which betrayed 
the hand of the old-fashioned coal-owner: 

Is it not notorious that hundreds, nay thousands, of men 
have been compelled to join the union, through the 
systematic annoyance and ill-treatment to which they 
have been subjected, sullen looks, and taunting remarks, 
jeering cries of "twig, him," clottings with clay and coal, 
refusals to descend the pit, or work with them, breaking 
their pick-shafts, hiding their clothes 1 . 

Much of the accusation was true, but these methods 
were preferable to the old brutal habit of assault, and 
infinitely preferable to the outrages, the strippings 
and beatings, the shots through the windows, which 
1 Durham Chronicle, April igth, 1872. 


had served as arguments against the black-legs of 
other years. 

Slowly the union fought its way into public 
favour. A dispute at Seaham proved the sincerity 
of Crawford's protestation that he wished to work in 
harmony with the owners. In most of the pits there 
were two shifts of hewers; both descending in the 
morning, one at four and one at ten. The manager at 
Seaham wished to introduce a third shift, to descend 
in the afternoon, and work untii almost midnight. 
Giving no notice to their agents the Seaham men, 
some 1500 in number, struck 1 . Remonstrance from 
Crawford and Ramsay was met by a vote of censure, 
and a threat to secede from the union. At last argu- 
ment persuaded the men to allow the dispute to be 
settled peaceably 2 . Arbitrators, two from each side, 
went down the pit 3 . The men had advanced three 
objections to the manager's proposals. One was that 
a night shift made the pit unsafe, for it allowed no 
time for free ventilation. Examination proved that 
the contrary was the case, that a pit was in a better 
state when working continuously than when lying 
idle. Another was that they were hampered in their 
hewing by the off-hand men, the men to whom 
is entrusted the upkeep of the roads and of the 
air ways. So little was this true that it was not 
thought worthy of answer. The last objection was 
that if the time of coal-drawing was increased from 

1 Durham Chronicle, May lyth, 1872, and succeeding weeks. 

2 J. Wilson, History of Durham Miners' Association, p. 57. 
8 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June I5th, 1872. 


ten to twenty hours, in the end the length of the 
working day would increase also. This the manager 
promised should never happen. False arithmetic 
analogy persuaded the men that if two shifts of 
men could keep the pit at work for ten hours it would 
require more than three shifts for a day of twenty 
hours. A short trial proved that instead of lengthening 
the hewer's day the addition of a third shift actually 
decreased it. 

It was one of those quarrels common in the history 
of the coal trade, in which the men endeavoured to 
conceal by a host of technical complaints an objection 
which they feared would be ignored. The men dis- 
liked the night shift because it was an innovation 
which threatened to interfere with the settled habits 
of their life. With two shifts there was a time when 
all the hewers were out of the pit, with three, it was 
difficult for them all to meet together. It was the 
sacrifice of the free evening which was the root cause 
of the hostility to the proposal. But the arbitrators 
decided that exceptional circumstance at Seaham 
justified the introduction of the night shift. By no 
other method could the output be raised without 
addition to the standing costs of working. Provided 
that night shifts were used sparingly, the union was 
prepared to give them its approval. The miners' 
agents had well redeemed their promise to the owners 
that they would exert themselves to the utmost to 
increase output, and help to make hay as long as 
the sun of prosperity continued to shine 1 . 
1 J. Wilson, Hist. ofD.M.A. p. 66. 




In June a great demonstration was held at Durham, 
the first of a series of festivals which continued un- 
interrupted until 1915. For a day the pits were laid 
idle. The shop-keeping citizens of Durham made 
protests. They feared that violence would accompany 
a huge invasion of pitmen. Some of them barricaded 
their windows, many of them fled the town. With 
nds and banners 40,000 pitmen marched to the 
:e-course, accompanied by a crowd of women and 
children whose presence must have assured the 
timorous that no revolutionary violence was intended. 
The change of feeling which union had brought had 
its outward witness in the legends on the banners. 
3000 had been spent on these symbols of union. 
One had on it a picture of Mr Macdonald, with the 
Mines Regulation Bill in his hand. One had a colliery 
horse, refusing to work more than eight hours a day. 
Some had the traditional device of union, the bundle 
of sticks, others, the "hand in hand" of fraternity. 
But on most were pictures of arbitration boards, 
with underneath messages of friendly invitation to 
the owners: "In the past we have been enemies; in 
the future let us be friends." The moderation of the 
speeches surprised the attending journalists, who had 
construed the rumour of the meeting into the threat 
of a general strike. But the behaviour of the pitmen 
surprised them even more. Only two of the huge 
crowd came in conflict with the police. The pitmen 
went quietly home, proud that so few of their number 
had lapsed into their good-natured sin of intoxication l . 

1 Durham Chronicle, June 2ist, 1872; J. Wilson, Hist, of 
D.M.A. pp. 61-63. 


Following the meeting a new wage demand was 
made and a new advance conceded of 15 per cent, 
to the pitmen and 10 per cent, to the surface workers. 
But it was no easy task for the agents to keep the 
men constant in their peaceful resolution or to per- 
suade them that the accession of strength provided 
no reason for its immediate use. In every newspaper 
letters from Crawford appeared exhorting the men 
not to hurry him in his quiet arguments with the 
owners, not to press too strongly for advance after 
advance, not to obscure by greed the justice of their 
demands. In September, speaking for 35,000 men, 
he asked for a further 15 per cent. The request was 
refused. The council of the union was not satisfied 
with his failure; 35 per cent, was the increase which 
they desired, and with it they demanded a decrease 
in hours. The owners, though they said that the new 
prosperity had encouraged idleness, and that the men 
were working but eight days a fortnight, were per- 
suaded by this unrest to accede to Crawford's demand ; 
the second 15 per cent, was granted 1 . Meantime the 
new Mines Regulation Act had come into force. 
Pamphlets from the union leaders advised the men 
of its purport, warned them against opposition to its 
provisions, and attempted to reduce a little their 
unduly high expectations. Crawford preached steadily 
against the doctrine of restriction of output, a doctrine 
at all times apt to become popular among coal- 
miners. His words were an amplification of the wis- 
dom of Burt. "The more the produce is restricted, 

1 Durham Chronicle, July 12th, 26th, 1872; J. Wilson, Hist, 
of D.M.A., pp. 66, 71, 74. 


the less the means are, at the command of the em- 
ployers, wherewith to pay all classes of workmen" 1 . 
He had seen unions rise as quickly in the past, to 
perish in miserable failure. He feared that the temper 
of the men would ruin the work which he had almost 

We have so far worked successfully, but that success 
has been greatly, if not altogether, owing to the caution 
and moderation we have exercised, the general reason- 
ableness of our demands . . . having at all times a respect 
for the rights, while we have tried to bring into active 
operation the duties, of capital. 

In 1867 the National Miners' Association had held 
its missionary conference in Durham. In 1871 it 
refused an application from Crawford, for the ad- 
mission of his union to membership. Though there 
were 16,000 men in the new Durham association, its 
stability was not yet above suspicion. In 1872 the 
conference was again held in Durham. At it Crawford 
took his seat, as the representative of the strongest 
union in the country. He could speak for 35,000 men, 
or three times as many as did Burt, the secretary 
of the model union of Northumberland. In 1869 
men were being dismissed their work, for spreading 
the principles of combination. In 1872, the union 
had met in formal, friendly conference with the 
masters. A joint committee had been formed to 
settle disputes on pay, and hours, and conditions of 
work, a committee to which men and management 
alike appealed. It was so immediate a success that 

1 J. Wilson, Hist, of DM. A. pp. 67, 79. 


Northumberland, in flattering imitation, itself set 
up a similar committee. In 1874 the Durham agents 
proposed the building of a hall, as a memorial to 
Tommy Ramsay, who had died in the midst of the 
triumph of his life's work. There were 40,000 sub- 
scribing members, and 34,000 in the funds. Pros- 
perity had founded the union ; it was soon to be seen 
whether it could, with as firm hope and as good 
temper, face the poverty which the far-sighted had 
seen would surely come. It was to be seen whether 
the men in their strength would extend to the demands 
of the owners the patient hearing which had by the 
owners been granted to them in their weakness; 
whether the friendship of owners to union would be 
as great in strife, as it had been in alliance. 



FOR three years prices had been rising and wages 
following after them. Despite the stories of 
drunken folly and domestic extravagance and the 
loud outcry against the spread of gambling, on the 
whole the men had made good use of their new 
prosperity. But their new comfort was far more due 
to the steadiness of employment than to the high 
daily wage. They were by no means satisfied that 
they had shared fairly in the profits, and they were 
convinced of the justice of their demand for a further 
wage increase. They made no protest when in the 
autumn of 1873 the owners refused their application 
for an advance, but next spring, at the first hint of 
a reduction, they prepared to strike. For a time 
Crawford encouraged their desire for war, but when 
it became plain that the good times were over the 
tone of his circulars changed. The men of Yorkshire 
and Northumberland had submitted to a wage reduc- 
tion. Were the miners of Durham to stand out, un- 
supported, and risk a lock-out on a falling market? 1 
Labour could not yet hope for complete justice. 
Profits still claimed the lion's share of prosperity. 
But in three years wages had risen 58 per cent. 2 The 

1 J. Wilson, Hist, of DM. A. pp. 87-95. 

2 Durham Chronicle, April 24th, 1874. 


men should rest satisfied if with changing prices they 
could maintain a portion of this advance, and lift 
their wages for ever above the level of 1871. On 
their side the owners halved their original demand. 
A bargain was struck. The gross wage fell 10 per 
cent. 1 

At once there was a storm of protest. In Northum- 
berland the reduction had been accepted quietly, and 
the men had lost but 10 per cent, of the wage of 
1871. The Durham colliery mechanics, who had not 
shared equally in the recent advance, refused to share 
equally in a general reduction. The delegates of the 
larger collieries complained that the agents had acted 
in the face of the known wishes of the majority of 
the men. The only sanction for the bargain was the 
failure to obtain in the annual delegate meeting a 
two- thirds majority for a strike. But there was a 
defect in the constitution of this council. Large or 
small, the collieries had in it but one vote, and the 
delegates from the large collieries had all voted for 
a strike. For a week there was uproar. Every day 
brought its tale of local strikes, meetings, and dis- 
orderly protests. A champion was found to oppose 
Crawford, who was charged with betraying the cause 
of union, as he had betrayed it before when he left 
the Northumberland men in the midst of the Cram- 
lington strike. But the agents stood firmly to their 
agreement. In speech and pamphlet Crawford over- 
came his opponents. He was more than a match for 
Pritchard, the leader of the malcontents. Grumbling, 

1 Durham Chronicle, May ist, 1874. 


the men returned to work. Only at Thornley did the 
strike persist 1 . 

There the year had begun with a dispute over the 
hewing price of a hard seam. The lodge, dissatisfied 
with the settlement, had led the agitation for a general 
strike. Now it found excuse for continued idleness 
in an alleged infringement of colliery custom. Though 
most of the Durham pits worked eleven days a fort- 
night there were some where the Northumberland 
custom was in use, and a five-day week the rule. 
Thornley claimed to be one of them. The union 
refused to pay strike allowance but the angry lodges 
levied themselves, as much to plague the agents as 
to oppose the owners. The strike continued until 
June, when by the eviction of their leaders the men 
were persuaded to submit their claim to impartial 
enquiry. The Thornley dispute is typical of the many 
in which the first grievance to hand has been pleaded 
as an excuse for a strike in time of wage dissatis- 
faction. In August the umpires decided that without 
doubt Thornley had always been in the eleven-day 
group 2 . 

At the annual pic-nic of the Northumberland 
miners Burt thanked the men for the loyalty which 
had persuaded a strong minority to submit to a wage 
reduction against which they had voted. Not only 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, May 2nd, 1874; Durham 
Chronicle, March 3rd, April 24th, May ist to June i2th, 1874; 
J. Wilson, Hist, of D.M.A. pp. 95-98. 

2 J. Wilson, Hist, of D.M.A. p. 95; Durham Chronicle, 
April 24th, May 5th, 29th, June 5th, I2th, Sept. 25th, 

w II 


had there been no open expression of discontent but 
the men were convinced at last "that a social mil- 
lennium was not to be achieved by a restriction of 
labour" 1 . It was a polite phrase of thanks for a 
remarkable absence of reduced production, the usual 
manifestation of sulky ill-will. At the Durham gala 
the speakers found little to celebrate beyond the 
increase in the numerical strength of the union 2 . 
Meantime, the constitution of the annual council was 
amended. Lodges were given votes in proportion to 
their membership. When the owners sent a pre- 
liminary notice of an intended demand for further 
reduction the council returned plain defiance. So 
far were the men from offering submission that 
nothing would content them but an advance of 15 per 
cent. To avert a strike the dispute was submitted to 
a court of arbitration. 

There were four judges, two well-known owners, 
and two nominees of the men. One was Thomas Burt. 
The other was Lloyd Jones, the fustian cutter, in his 
youth a disciple of Owen, in his maturity, agnostic 
though he was, a friend of the Christian Socialists, 
now, in his old age, as a journalist on the staff of 
Cowen's Newcastle Chronicle, about to begin the 
education of the miners in the belief that profit 
should be the reward of labour, not the monopoly 
of capital. Russell Gurney, the recorder of London, 
was named umpire. The case, the first of its kind in 
Durham, was opened in October. The umpire's de- 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June 2oth, 1874. 
8 Durham Chronicle, Aug. 24th, 1874. 


cision was published in the first week of the next 
month. In the discussion almost every argument of 
later dispute arose. The procedure of the court became 
decisive precedent for the future, its conclusions the 
basis of every succeeding agreement. The owners 
opened the battle with a demand for an immediate 
gross reduction of 20 per cent. In 1871, in spite of 
low wages, low material costs, and long hours, the 
pits were being worked at a loss. In 1872 the owners 
made an end of the yearly bond, and for the first 
time became subject to the restraint of state inter- 
ference. As a result of the Mines Regulation Act of 
that year the hours of coal-drawing were reduced, 
and the proportion of boys and off-hand men in- 
creased. A boom in the iron trade concealed the 
effect of these changes. A sudden extension of the 
markets, due to the increased use of steam in sea 
transport, brought an unprecedented condition of 
prosperity. Profits rose, wages were increased, and 
though on the whole the high wages did not increase 
idleness the daily output of each hewer fell by 14 per 
cent. With 13 per cent, more hewers and 27 per cent, 
more boys and off-hand men there was 6-7 per cent, 
less coal raised. Labour costs rose 90 per cent., the 
cost of materials 80 per cent. At times abnormally 
high prices were obtained, but they brought profit 
only to the dealers, for the pits sold their coal under 
a system of long contracts. In April, 1874, the men 
had accepted a reduction of 10 per cent. In the six 
months which had elapsed since, there had been a 
fall in price which would have justified the owners in 

II 2 


claiming a wage reduction of 28 per cent. They would 
not exact the uttermost farthing. They demanded an 
immediate reduction of 20 per cent. 

Much to the surprise and pretended indignation of 
the owners Crawford at once asked for an adjourn- 
ment. His case he could not conceal it was to be 
mainly destructive. For the men possessed little 
accurate information, and such figures as they had 
prepared were useless to refute statements based on 
statistics compiled only from the books of certain 
collieries which the owners had selected as repre- 
sentative. After some dispute, in which the owners' 
advocate jeered at the insufficiency of the men's 
preparation, an adjournment was granted, with a 
show of magnanimity. Crawford was at pains to make 
clear that it was not the accuracy of the figures 
which he wished to examine, but the effect of the 
selection. Next day the men came before the court, 
haggard from want of sleep, to appeal for a further 
adjournment. For 26 hours they had worked, six 
clerks assisting, and still their case was not finished. 
Without further objection, indeed, with sincere ex- 
pression of sympathy, the request was granted. 

Crawford opened his case in a tone of apology for 
his presumption in joining battle with the owners. 
On behalf of the men he acknowledged that capital 
must be allowed a fair remuneration. But he claimed 
that labour should share in profits, though it was 
willing to see its share diminish, except when the 
fall in profit was caused by reckless competition. He 
admitted that his figures, based as they were on the 


published prices of the markets, were of little value. 
They were little more than a guide to price move- 
ment. But until a better system could be devised, 
it seemed that price movement must control wage 
movement. The men refused to allow the wage they 
had received in past times to be used as a basis for 
the present agreement. The whole of their recent 
demands had not been granted, and it was notorious 
that the wage in 1871 was too small to maintain a 
decent standard of comfort. Costs incurred under 
the Mines Regulation Act were a burden imposed by 
the State. The men refused to accept any part of 
them. The owners must bear such costs themselves 
they had some return, in the increased safety of their 
property or thrust them on the consumer. The point 
from which all wage enquiry should start should be 
cost of production. 

After a repetition that in the past wages had been 
insufficient, and that despite the depression selling 
prices were still high, and profits enormous, Crawford 
told of the discomfort, the danger, and the un- 
healthiness of the miner's occupation. In Durham 
more than half the men worked in seams less than 
3 feet 6 inches in height. He returned to the central 
feature of his case, that the cost of living was too 
high to allow of return to the old wages. His speech 
concluded with a demand for the production of the 
colliery books, in disproof of his estimate of cost 
price, selling price, and profit. 

The owners said, as they had said before, that the 
prices in the London market bore no relation to 


prices at the pit-head. They refused to admit that 
the high cost of living was a valid reason for with- 
standing a wage reduction. Like everything else, 
wages depended on " the inexorable laws of supply and 
demand." They contended that in mining, dependent 
as it was on manual labour, there was little hope of 
increasing output by reducing hours. They laughed 
at Crawford's story of ill-health. "We have long ago 
ceased to find marks of cramped bodies and distorted 
limbs. In no industry is there a finer body of men." 
It was an apt argument, to point to the miners' 
leaders, strong, healthy-looking men, in disproof of 
their own stories. The dangers of the trade were 
exaggerated. Mining had become so attractive an 
occupation that in the last three years 3000 new men 
had gone into the pits. But the owners reserved their 
fiercest opposition for the attempt to discover the 
profits of the trade, and the doctrine that in profit 
labour was entitled to a share. "That wages should 
follow profits, and of course losses, is a proposition 
so opposed to every law of political economy ... so 
bewildering in the consequence it would entail" that 
the owners' advocate dared pursue his thought no 
further. Price movement alone could be allowed to 
measure wage demands. 

After a little bickering on the length of the working 
week the case was closed. The arbitrators, who failed 
to agree, referred their dispute to the umpire. He 
made award that there should be such reduction as 
would leave wages 30 per cent, above the standard 
of 1872. It meant a loss of almost 9 per cent, on the 


gross wage. In the same month a similar arbitration 
in Northumberland had an almost . exactly similar 
result. There, wages fell to 26 per cent, above the 
wage of 1871. 

Except at Ashington there was no opposition to 
the awards. The men swallowed their resentment that 
unions, formed to better their condition, should take 
so prominent a part in wage reduction. By their 
willing submission to verdicts so unpopular they 
proved the sincerity of their desire to substitute 
arbitration for the old and brutal judge of trade 
dispute, strikes. The men had for ever refused to 
bear any part of the cost of State regulation of their 
industry. They had advanced, and the owners had 
rejected, the argument that wages should be main- 
tained at a height which sufficed for a reasonable 
minimum of comfort. It was an argument which 
they themselves shrank from using, so terrifying was 
it in its logical consequence. On their part, the 
owners, by a resolute silence on the whole subject 
of costs and profits, had compelled the use of price 
movement as a measure of wages. As yet neither 
side had a developed theory of industry, while the 
men were hampered in argument by the inaccuracy 
of their statistics. The desire of both parties was to 
make peace, rather than to achieve justice. Discus- 
sion was at once closed, when it threatened to expose 
a fundamental difference of idea 1 . 

In Northumberland 1875 opened with a strike at 

1 Report of the Durham Coal Trade Arbitration, 1874. (In 
the Library of the Durham Miners' Association.) 


Seghill 1 , which cost the union nearly 3000. Bad 
times had made necessary the closing of an un- 
profitable seam, and the men struck against the 
attempt to discriminate in the dismissals. An old 
custom said that the last-joined hewers should be the 
first to go, and the victory of the men provided a 
clear precedent in its favour. Meantime, the owners 
had made a demand for a further wage reduction. 
The men in the hard coal districts were sufficiently 
afraid of their Welsh competitors to be ready to 
accept the demand, but, as the soft coal men pointed 
out, the wages in the soft coal districts were already 
less than were wages in Durham. After an offer to 
submit to a general reduction of 10 per cent, the 
Northumberland men allowed the dispute to be 
brought before an umpire. In March the umpire, 
Mr Rupert Kettle, made his award, which he explained 
in a long and carefully written document 2 . To make 
plain that the men's submission was not one of con- 
viction, but consent, he recorded their main objec- 
tions to the owners' case. They refused to accept the 
owners' assumption that the rate of profit current in 
1871 was sacred, untouchable. They were not per- 
suaded that selling price was the natural guide to 
wage movement. He recorded, as a fact sufficiently 
proved, the owners' statement that in 1875 twenty 
men were required to do a task which fourteen men 
had done in 1871. But, lest it should be thought 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Jan. gth, 1875; Durhc 
Chronicle, Jan. 8th, 22nd, 29th, 1875. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, March 2oth, 1875; Durl 
Chronicle, Jan. 22nd, Feb. 5th, 1875. 


that the fault for this decline in output rested wholly 
with the men, he devised an explanation which im- 
partially divided the blame. In the late years of 
extravagant profits prices had lost all relation to 
working costs. Seams had been opened which at no 
other time would have paid, seams which could be 
worked only by a lavish use of labour. Some part 
of the owners' demand he warned the men it was 
necessary to concede, but to keep the decrease as low 
as possible the men must be prepared to submit to 
a general contraction of employment. He considered 
that a wage distinction between the hard and soft 
coal districts was essential. The hewers in the hard 
coal were to lose 10 per cent, of the wage of 1871, 
those in the soft, I2j per cent. But in the general 
reduction he made many exceptions. All were to 
lose, but all were not deserving of equal loss. He 
excepted the stone-men, because their work was 
laborious, the deputies, because their work was re- 
sponsible, the datal men, labourers working for a 
daily wage, because their wages could not be brought 
below a minimum. Underground men were not to 
suffer a reduction if their wage was less than 35. 6d. 
a day, surface men, if they earned less than 35. It 
was an admission of the principle, doubtfully ad- 
vanced by the men, that wages should in part be 
based on the necessities of life, that price could not 
warrant reduction to the point of starvation 1 . 

The award had one unlooked-for consequence. The 
mechanics said that they too were entitled to special 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Mar. 2oth, May lyth, 1875. 


exemption. They seceded and struck, and though 
eviction put an end to the strike, the new association 
of colliery mechanics remained, a union independent 
of the miners 1 . 

In Durham, where the owners demanded a further 
reduction, there was wide dissatisfaction. At Thornley, 
where one of the men had been discharged for ex- 
changing his free coal for paint, the men struck, and 
with success 2 . At Wearmouth there was a second 
strike, to compel the dismissal of the 18 men who 
alone among the noo employed stoutly refused to 
join the union. The agents declared that a quarrel 
among the men gave no excuse for a war with the 
owners, and refused both strike pay and official sup- 
port. But the sympathetic lodges again levied them- 
selves, and the strike dragged on until the committee 
of the union was compelled to issue a circular of 
protest. A strike which continued in defiance of the 
union commands brought discredit on the union, and 
hindrance to the agents in their negotiations with 
the owners. The protest had its effect. The lodges 
withdrew their support, and the strike came to an 
end. The wage dispute, the initial cause of the dis- 
affection, was about to be brought before a court of 
arbitration 3 . 

With novelty had disappeared hesitation. Both 
owners and men spoke in a more decided tone. 
Bunning, the secretary of the Durham Coal-Owners' 

1 Durham Chronicle, April i6th, 3oth, 1875. 

2 Ibid. Feb. igth, 1875. 

8 Ibid. Mar. 26th, April gth, 1875. 


Association, opened the employers' case. His hardest 
task was to check the stream of damaging admissions 
which came from the owners sitting in the court. 
He had realised more clearly than they the danger 
of the men's demand that in the fixing of wages 
account should be taken of the movement of profits. 
His first premise was that high prices had com- 
pelled a widespread economy in the use of coal, which, 
by becoming permanent, had caused a definite con- 
traction in the demand. He admitted that combina- 
tion and restriction of output could for a time stimu- 
late prices, but he claimed that a depression inevitably 
followed. In the past there had been many attempts 
at regulation, the chief result of which had been the 
excitement of popular feeling against the coal trade. 
Whatever might be the men's desires the owners had 
no intention of resorting again to an obsolete system 
in which restriction of output was combined with 
price control. The coal trade had one hope of salvation, 
a revival in the iron trade, which might be hastened 
by a reduction in the price of coal. To make possible 
such a reduction some economy in the cost of working 
was necessary, and the cause of the rise in working 
cost had been as much the decrease in hours as the in- 
crease in wages. The number of men in the pits had 
risen faster than had the output of coal. Each hewer 
was producing 13 per cent, less than he had done in 
1871. Running was not allowed to state his case un- 
challenged. The umpire demanded a definite state- 
ment of the desired wage reduction, free from the 
obscurity of a comparison of hours and output. 


Lloyd Jones, sitting as Crawford's companion, the 
second arbitrator for the men, kept up a continual 
stream of comment and question. He shewed that 
the rise in price had been in no way due to the wage 
increase, for wages had always followed prices. He 
questioned the wisdom of Bunning's theory, that to 
add to hours, and thus to output, could bring relief 
from the low prices of a glutted market. A former 
arbitration had established the fact that in 1871 the 
average pit-head profit was 4^. a ton. Bunning, for 
all his figures of increased costs, dare not suggest 
that his profits had yet fallen so low. 

The men denied that their union had any policy 
of restriction. They countered the owners' figures with 
the assertion that the hours of very few men had 
been reduced. They would not accept the blame of 
the reduction in individual output. They contended 
that the existing price was not abnormal, but a return 
to the old level after a period of extraordinary infla- 
tion. There was no justice in the claim to lower 
wages when it had its origin in a desire to maintain 
unprecedented profits. It was said that the coal trade 
was suffering because of the stagnation in the iron 
trade. Yet firms like Messrs Bolkow Vaughan, which 
owned furnaces, coke ovens, and collieries, continued 
to pay dividends which ranged from 12 per cent. 
to 40 per cent., and to put by huge sums as a reserve 
fund. If their profits were not made out of iron, were 
they made out of coal? But the sting was in their 
final threat. If the owners continued to harp on 
the rise in working cost, the men would insist that 


profits, not prices, should be the measure of wage 

The umpire was alarmed. He intervened to remind 
the owners that both parties had promised, come 
what might, to arrange a settlement. He was per- 
suaded that profits, not prices, provided the fairest 
measure of the owners' ability to maintain the wage, 

but he was willing, if the owners definitely refused 
information about their profits, to give judgment on 
the standard of price movement. His promise would 
have satisfied Bunning, but the owners had a greater 
desire for justice than had their secretary. To them 
the enquiry was more than an attempt to find a 
settlement. One owner gave a long list of items, which 
he said made up the tale of costs. Another offered 
an estimate of the proportion which these costs bore 
to each other. Bunning tried in vain to silence them, 
and to minimise the damage of the admissions by a 
claim that as wages and materials together made up 
more than three-quarters of the total working costs 
no saving could be made in other directions to off-set 
their rise. But enough had been said to suggest that 
the total working cost had risen 41 per cent. It was 
information eagerly received by the men. All Bunning 
could do was to divert the argument, until the case 
ended in a useless dispute about the number of men 
employed, and the irregularity of their attendance 
at work. 

Some reduction in wage was necessary, if only to 
keep the peace in the coal trade, but the umpire could 
hardly have made it smaller than he did. Of the 


wage of 1871 the surface workers were to lose 4 per 
cent., the underground men 5 per cent. It was less 
than the men had offered in the preliminary negotia- 
tions. Lloyd Jones' insistence on the disclosure of 
profit had won the day for the union 1 . 

As the year wore on the frequency of local strikes 
shewed how nearly the patience of the men was 
exhausted, and how firm were the owners in their 
resolve to make no concessions. Thornley, always a 
storm centre, was quiet, for since May the colliery 
had been closed, to allow of repair of the damage 
done by a fire, but the men of Broomside were with 
difficulty persuaded to refer a grievance to arbitra- 
tion. In Northumberland a permanent dispute as to 
the method of working was for a time settled by 
appeal to Mr Kettle. The men wished to blast the 
coal out of the solid, with no more than a simple 
undercut. The owners said that it shattered the coal 
and spoiled it for export. They asked the men to nick 
up the side of the seam, as well as undercut the bottom. 
Kettle was convinced by their proof that the side 
cut was necessary. " Shooting fast " he decided could 
only be adopted with the manager's permission 2 . The 
return to the old practice, locally abandoned during 
the season of unreasonable demand, brought a serious 
fall in wages. 

In November the owners on both sides of the Tyne 
were compelled to make a fresh demand for a wage 

1 Durham Coal Trade Arbitration, 1875. (Book in Miners' 
Hall, Durham.) 

2 Durham Chronicle, Oct. ist, 1875. 


reduction. Only after earnest argument could the 
agents persuade the men to submit their case to 
arbitration. In February, 1876, the Northumberland 
award was published. The men lost, not the 20 per 
cent, which .the owners demanded, but 8 per cent, 
of the wage of 1871. The respect for the standard 
of life was maintained. No part of the reduction was 
to fall on men whose earnings were less than 35. a 
day. The men had relied on two arguments, that the 
fall in price was temporary, a periodic result of the 
winter freezing of the Baltic, and that the rise in 
working cost was due to the opening of unprofitable 
seams during the boom, a mistake which they ought 
not to remedy by a wage reduction. In the Durham 
arbitration Bunning repeated for the owners the same 
arguments he had used before, figures of high costs, 
falling prices, and reduced output, and suggested the 
same remedy, a cheapening of coal to stimulate the 
iron trade. The fall in the wage had made the issue 
more clear. It resolved itself into a simple choice. 
Did the men prefer underpayment, or unemploy- 
ment? It made plain a fundamental difference in 
idea. Were wages the slave of prices, or could pro- 
vision be made for an untouchable standard of life? 

The altered spirit of the enquiry is shewn by 
Crawford's threat, that "if the workman was to be 
stripped naked by the laws of political economy, he 
might some day be forced to seek his protection out- 
side those laws." He had departed far from his old 
tone of apology when he accused the iron masters 
of using up their coal stocks to produce a false depres- 


sion during the hearing of the dispute. The owners 
protested against the bitterness of his attitude. They 
warned him that as long as the men continued to 
neglect their work at the week-end such absence 
would be used to discredit the story of domestic 
hardship. The umpire made award that wages should 
fall, for the underground men 7 per cent., for the 
surface workers 4 per cent. 1 

Both in Northumberland and Durham the umpires 
had suggested that some permanent tribunal should 
be appointed, for the discussion of wage claims, or 
that some system should be devised for the automatic 
movement of wages. 

1 Durham Coal Trade Arbitration, 1876. 



THAT some change in the method of wage settle- 
ment was necessary the union leaders were well 
persuaded. The constant arbitrations were a source 
of expense and of trouble. They excited too keen 
interest among the men, and provoked serious dis- 
content. It was plain that by no system of peaceful 
agreement could complete justice be obtained, and 
that persistence in debate would in the end expose 
the fundamental opposition of owners and men. The 
steady refusal of the coal trade to accept any other 
basis for wage demand than the movement of selling 
price made plain that no concession would be made 
to the men's desire for a revelation of profits. It was 
easy to base a scale for wage calculation on price 
movement. It was possible that under such a scale 
alterations would be so frequent and so small as to 
pass unnoticed. Arbitration was better than war but 
it had brought none of the promised peace to the 
coal-fields. If the panacea had been of little worth 
there was yet hope of a salve for the ever-running 
wound. A new system of wage settlement was devised, 
that of the sliding scale, a system which had no 
pretence to be other than a practical solution of a 
permanent difficulty. 

In June (1876) the Durham miners opened a hall 
w 12 


the foundations of which they had laid in times of 
prosperity. Trade was in a very gloomy condition. 
Many of the pits were working on short time, some 
had actually closed, despairing of being able to reduce 
working costs to a level which would allow the pro- 
duction of coal at the market price. The first council 
which met in the new hall was convened to consider 
a demand for a further general reduction 1 . It voted 
for a strike, but a general ballot reversed its decision. 
In a private circular the agents had bluntly told the 
men that the union funds were not strong enough 
to support a war. Early in the year Crawford had 
roughly rebuked the Ryhope men for allowing their 
putters to strike "at a time when the owners almost 
seek an occasion for quarrel" 2 . His judgment was not 
far at fault. The knowledge that the union funds 
were falling encouraged many of the more reactionary 
of the owners in their belief that the time had come 
to aim a final blow at combination. A bitter corre- 
spondence began between Crawford and Running, 
the owners' secretary, on the subject of local strikes 3 . 
The union was warned that if it remained unable to 
control its men the owners would resort to the old 
remedy against idleness, legal action. The news of the 
last arbitration had led to a secession in Durham. 
Many of the deputies officials whose duties hardly 
removed them from the ranks of the workmen had 
hitherto been members of the union. Now they 
resigned, enticed by a promise from the owners that 

1 Durham Chronicle, June gth, 1876. 

2 Records of Durham Miners' Association, March I5th, 1876. 

3 Records of Durham Miners' Association, Oct. loth, 1876. 


they would be exempted from the reduction if they 
would form an association of their own. The owners 
professed a belief that it was bad for discipline for 
officials to be in the same union as the men. From 
the first Crawford held that their action was a direct 
attack on the strength of union, but so little able was 
he to face a struggle that he dared do no more than 
make angry protest. Strike was impossible with 
financial ruin so near at hand 1 . 

A better spirit obtained in Northumberland. There 
owners and men, afraid that the wage would bear 
no further reduction, began to seek relief in a funda- 
mental change in the method of hewing payment. 
A joint deputation was sent to Wales to study the 
system there in use. In the autumn an arbitration, 
presided over by Judge Fairplay, took away a 
further 7 per cent, of the standard wage, and recom- 
mended the adoption of the Welsh system, by which 
payment was made only for the round coal produced. 
It was an award of which the vast majority of the men 
disapproved. The change, though quietly suffered, 
was never acceptable. Soon "Billy Fairplay" be- 
came the catchword of a most furious campaign of 
violent mob-oratory 2 . 

As the winter passed, and distress and discontent 
grew, both in Northumberland and Durham internal 
strife began to weaken the tottering unions. Wilkinson, 
the financial secretary of the Durham Miners' Associa- 
tion, charged the whole of the executive committee 

1 Records of Durham Miners' Association, Oct. 1876.... 
8 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Oct. 22nd, 1876. 

12 2 


with personal extravagance. Without reason, and 
without sanction, the members had travelled to 
London to be present at the announcement of 
an arbitrator's award. The council suspended the 
offenders, and in a reconstituted committee the 
agents were given greater power, as a bar to the 
repetition of such extravagant folly 1 . The ousted 
committee-men were not easily silenced. They issued 
circulars. They excited the local lodges to revolt. 
Meantime a co-operative colliery, to which, inspired 
by the example of the unions, many of the miners of 
the north had subscribed their small savings, was 
compelled by bankruptcy to close down. In the 
main the cause of the failure was the prevalent trade 
depression, assisted by the steady rise in working 
costs. But the men were persuaded that they had 
been the victims of a cruel fraud, and that the seller 
had grossly overstated the output. Not only did the 
funds of the union suffer Durham alone lost 15,000 
but many of the miners lost the whole of their 
life's savings 2 . Naturally the leaders, whose enthusiasm 
for co-operation had led them into the rash experi- 
ment, lost popularity, and Burt and his fellows made 
a second and even more costly mistake. A large sum 
from the funds of the Northumberland Association 
had been invested in an " Industrial Bank," another 
moribund offshoot of co-operative enterprise. 

In March, 1877, the demand of the Durham owners 
for a further general reduction led to the adoption 

1 J. Wilson, Hist, of D.M.A . p. 1 14 ; Records of D.M.A . 1876, 
p. in. 

2 Durham Chronicle, March 23rd, 1877. 


of a sliding scale. The wage fell, 7J per cent, for the 
men underground, 6 per cent, for the workers on the 
surface. Further wage movement was to be governed 
by the fluctuation in the pit-head price of coal. A rise 
of 8d. per ton was to be followed by an increase in 
wages of 5 per cent. A fall was to bring a similar 
reduction. Surface wages were to move in jumps of 
4 per cent. But the scale was less simple than this. 
All the probable prices were named, and there seemed 
to be no thought that 55. 4^. a ton was too high a 
minimum. Later reductions below that figure were 
to make valueless the sliding scale 1 . 

Meantime the men were adopting a better defence 
against under-employment, emigration. For a time 
the union managed the departures, but, as Crawford 
said, "some poltroon fellows directly interested in 
getting emigrants grudged the loss of the commis- 
sion" 2 , and the agents abandoned the unprofitable 
and unpopular business of retailing passages. To 
satisfy the men that the rumours of the horror of the 
voyage were unfounded Crawford himself made a 
trip to America. Continuing its advice to the young 
men to try their fortune in America the union bravely 
attempted the duty of relieving the older men who 
remained. A "Relief Fund" was established, in part 
supported by grants from the general fund, in part 
upheld by a systematic levy on those fortunate enough 
to be still at work 3 . 

1 DM. A. Records, March I4th, 1877. 

DM. A. Records, Handbill, June 26th, 1877; J. Wilson, 
Hist, of DM. A. p. 133. 

3 J. Wilson, Hist, of D.M.A. p. 139. 


If by alternate threat and persuasion Crawford was 
able to keep the peace in Durham, in Northumber- 
land a storm was fast rising. The system of payment 
for the round coal alone produced among the pitmen 
nothing but discontent, while, despite Kettle's award, 
they were persistent in their demand to be allowed 
to "blast out of the solid." When in April the owners 
asked the exasperated men for a further wage reduc- 
tion the men almost unanimously called for a strike. 
Burt told them that they had a right to make their 
own choice, and that the owners were deserving of 
blame for a demand so extravagant, and an action 
so hasty. But for the failure which he saw would be 
the inevitable outcome of a strike he plainly warned 
them that he would not take a particle of the blame 1 . 
At a mass meeting on the Newcastle Town Moor, 
the union president, Bryson, was refused a hearing and 
in the end driven off the platform by a shower of 
stones. Willy Brown of Stafford, the quaint evangelist 
of union who mixed prayer and song and economic 
argument with his persuasions to peace and to union, 
was asked to take the chair. He roundly accused the 
meeting of cowardice and folly. Burt followed, to 
warn the men that as they opposed arbitration, so 
would they oppose their desired sliding scale as soon 
as it authorised a wage reduction 2 . At every colliery 
in the county there were similar excited and dis- 
orderly meetings. Alone among the union officials 
Burt retained his prestige. Others might be stoned, 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April 26th, 1877. 
8 Ibid. June gth, 1877; Durham Chronicle, May 25th, 
June 8th, 1877. For strike, 11,380; Against, 946. 


and shouted down, but to his condemnations of their 
folly the men always gave a ready hearing. They for- 
bore to shame the miner whom they had sent to 
Westminster, and to whom they had voted a salary 
of 500 a year that he might worthily uphold his 
new dignity as the miners' member for Morpeth. 
His steady condemnation of violence had its effect. 
The men had given the usual fortnight's notice of their 
intention to cease work, but before the time expired 
a strong majority in a general ballot authorised appeal 
to arbitration. Bryson was re-elected president, and 
a vote of confidence wiped away the memory of his 
recent ill-treatment 1 . In August Herschell, the chosen 
umpire, made his award 2 . Since the case of the owners 
rested entirely on their statement that labour costs 
had risen, a statement unsupported by any proof that 
the total cost of production had increased, he refused 
to make any change in the wage. But to give some 
relief to the owners the men were recommended to 
make two changes in their working practice. They 
worked but five days a week. In future they were to 
work every alternate Saturday, as in Durham. Delay 
in the long journeys to the face was steadily reducing 
the hours of actual work. They were to strive to 
attain a minimum of six. The settlement was ac- 

In October the owners repeated their demand for 
a wage reduction. To excuse the haste of their action 
they asserted that the men had ignored the con- 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, July I4th, 1877. 

2 Ibid. Aug. 25th, Nov. 8th, 1877. 


ditions of the recent award, and that in particular 
they had made no effort to add to the length of their 
working day. 

By a majority of one the men instructed Burt to 
appeal for arbitration. But the owners would not 
bargain. They said that it was not a time for agree- 
ment, but for concession. For the funds of the union 
were so low that a strike seemed impossible. 

Yet at Christmas a strike began, a strike which 
with some justice the men persisted in calling a lock- 
out. A general appeal for support was sent to the 
other unions, but in the eight weeks of their idleness 
the men had little other support than their own 
resolution. The utmost strike pay which the union 
could afford was a sum of 35. 4^. a week. There was 
little disorder, though as the strike progressed the 
demand of the men for a sliding scale grew louder 
and more insistent. In principle the sliding scale was 
acceptable to the owners, but the negotiations which 
were begun broke down over the question of the wage 
which was to be the standard. While the men asked 
for 55. 3^. a day the owners would offer no more than 
55., and they refused to entertain the suggestion of 
arbitration. By local private agreements several of 
the collieries were enticed back to work. In the south- 
east of the county a new union was formed. At last 
the weekly ballot failed to shew the required two- 
thirds majority for the continuance of the strike. 
Burt gave up the disputed threepence and hastened 
to get the men back into the pits, so that he could 
make an end of the threatening schism. As in Durham, 


so in Northumberland, the miners had submitted to 
the insistence of the owners that prices, not profits, 
should be the measure of their wage 1 . 

If in Northumberland there was secession, in 
Durham there was dissension almost as dangerous. 
In August the men of Bearpark struck, to resist a 
local reduction. They refused to refer the matter to 
arbitration. They refused to sanction an agreement 
which their own agents framed, as a reasonable con- 
cession. Even eviction did not change their attitude, 
it but brought further discord, for a quarrel began 
between the young irreconcilables and the house- 
holders. In September, at a mass meeting, the Bear- 
park men attacked the whole policy of the union. 
They said that arbitration had become a farce, that 
in every case the owners asked for twice as much as 
they expected to get, sure that the umpire would 
halve their demands. They complained that local 
lodges were too much under the domination of the 
central executive of the union, which took too big 
a proportion of the weekly subscription for the general 
fund. And they attacked the inherent defect of the 
Joint Committee, to which pits were expected to 
carry their disputed demands. The Joint Committee 
was empowered, when it found the average wage in 
a pit differed too much from the average wage in 
the county, to recommend a local advance or reduc- 
tion. But an astute manager was easily able to defeat 
the Joint Committee. He discharged the old men. 

1 Durham Chronicle, Jan., Feb., March, 1878; Newcastle 
(Weekly) Chronicle, same, especially Feb. gth, 1878. 


The wage of the young and vigorous hewers rose. 
He appealed for a local reduction, and in a pit where 
the working efficiency of the men was far above the 
average the wage sunk to the common level. But at 
last the conviction of thirty of their number for 
breach of contract persuaded the Bearpark men to 
submit to the decision of the Committee, whose short- 
comings they had so plainly exposed. This dispute 
was but one of many where a small alteration in 
wages suggested an examination of every possible 
grievance. The men demanded the dismissal of the 
black-legs. The owners persisted in their refusal to 
employ notorious local leaders. One minor strike 
dragged on for forty weeks 1 . 

The distress grew. In the spring of 1878 it was 
said that pits which had employed 4000 men were 
closed, while in the still busy pits seams had been 
abandoned which in the past had employed a further 
1500 men. The relief levy, which had grown to 5^. 
a fortnight, did not meet a third of the liabilities 
of the fund which it was supposed to support. All 
respect for the county agreement seemed to be gone. 
Everywhere managers made a direct bargain with 
their men, getting a local reduction in wage in return 
for a promise to keep at work. The miners were 
puzzled by this depression in which prices fell, men 
were discharged, and the output steadily, if but 
slowly, rose. They began to appeal to the owners to 
stop the reckless competition which they thought 

1 Durham Chronicle, Aug. 8th, 3ist, Sept. yth, I4th, 2ist, 


was hastening ruin. They wished to return to the 
old system of output restriction, to make an end of 
the glut, and so force prices back to their old level 1 . 
In May the union allowed the hours of coal-drawing 
to be increased to eleven. It was an attempt to 
relieve the owners by enabling them to make a fuller 
use of their machinery. In September the agents 
were compelled to abolish the relief fund. It had 
drained away the funds, it threatened the numerical 
strength of the union, for the men were deserting to 
avoid the heavy subscription. The constitution of 
the old National Association, to which both north- 
country unions were affiliated, was amended. It was 
to exist only for the inexpensive object of promoting 
trade legislation. In October the decline in the union 
strength became so serious that their agents asked 
the Durham men to make a definite stand against 
"the carelessness which has taken hold of the 
country." Without coercion, without intimidation, 
they were to try to prevent further desertions and 
to persuade the weak-hearted to come back to the 
fold. In November all the workmen's associations in 
the Durham colliery districts joined in a single 
federation. Cokemen, enginemen, mechanics and 
miners were for the future to act together. It was 
the last stage in a desperate fight for existence 2 . 

In Durham the period of trial of the sliding scale 
agreement was at an end. The executive was em- 
powered to discuss with the owners the conditions 

1 DM. A. Records, May 2yth, 1878. 

2 Ibid. 1878-9. 


of its re-establishment. The one demand which the 
owners made was that the basis wage should be 
reduced by 20 per cent. Long ago the decline in 
coal prices had made inoperative the whole sliding 
scale agreement. They wished to restore the accord 
between wages and prices. The men refused the de- 
mand, and suggested that the whole matter should 
be decided by a formal arbitration. When they found 
that their proposal was not likely to be considered, 
they prepared for a strike 1 . 

Crawford saw the folly of their decision. In speech 
and circular he sounded a note of frantic warning. 

At this juncture to attempt to strike would be suicidal. 
On every hand you can count men unemployed by hun- 
dreds. . . .The abstract principles of trades unionism will 
not fill the bellies of the hungry. In two years the union 
had spent on local strikes 100,000 and there was not 
a single strike which had not signally failed. A strike 
meant destruction 2 . 

But the men were not to be persuaded. Three years' 
insistence on the virtues of arbitration could not be 
offset by a warning in time of expected calamity. It 
might be useless, pernicious, and dangerous to talk 
of abstract rights, as their leaders said, but the men 
were determined 3 . The owners were to accept arbitra- 
tion, or prepare for a strike. 

In the second week of March, 1879, the strike 
began. The agents issued a solemn warning against 

1 Durham Chronicle, March 7th, I4th, 1879, and succeeding 

2 Durham Miners' Association Records, March roth, 1879. 
a Ibid. March i7th, 1879. 


resort to violence: " Let nothing induce you to pursue 
a course which at all times is to be deplored, and 
which at this juncture would be aggravated into 
heinous crime." It was a warning scrupulously obeyed. 
Both sides appealed to the public. The men contended 
that the strike had been forced on them by the 
masters, whose deliberate intent it was to wreck the 
union. They admitted the need for wage reduction, 
t not the owners' right to unquestioned power to 
x its amount. The fight, said they, was for the con- 
tinued existence of the system of wage agreement. 
At the final conference the masters had bluntly 
refused to consider every claim put forward by the 
men. Running tried to silence the men's cry that 
they were striking for a principle by offering to 
submit the dispute to arbitration if the men would 
accept an immediate reduction of 10 per cent. But 
10 per cent, was the whole of the reduction which 
the men were willing to grant and the full extent of 
the loss they expected from an arbitrator's award, 
seeing that the original demand of the owners had 
been for 20 per cent, and that the wage statements 
of the two parties accorded ill one with the other. 
Only 200 of them voted for a return to work on 
Running's terms, and even the women supported 
them in their decision, saying that life on coffee and 
bread could not be made more wretched by a short 
starvation 1 . 

1 DM. A. Records, March, April, May, 1879; Durham 
Chronicle, same period, especially March i4th. April 25th, 
ballot for strike to continue, 22,633; against, 224. 


In May the men came near to victory. Public 
opinion was firmly ranged on their side. Many of the 
owners were not in sympathy with the policy of their 
association. Seventeen had voted in favour of referring 
the dispute to arbitration. One held an enquiry in 
his own collieries which convinced him that the neces- 
sary reduction was but 6J per cent. In June the 
owners offered to refer the whole question of reduc- 
tion to a committee which should consist of an equal 
number of nominees of both contending parties. It 
was, said the newspapers, arbitration in all but name. 
By a huge majority the men accepted the offer. 
A week later Bradshaw, the County Court judge, 
who sat as umpire, made his award. The standard 
wage of the underground men was reduced 8| per 
cent., that of the surface men 6f per cent. The award 
was not popular but the men were glad to get back 
to work, and the owners seemed willing to accept 
it when it was made clear that a further and more 
formal enquiry was to follow. Late that month a 
court was assembled to make that final decision, 
which was to authorise, and extend at need, the 
grant of Judge Bradshaw. A chairman worthy of the 
importance of the occasion was chosen, Lord Derby 1 . 

The dignity of the new president and his ignorance 
of the local conditions of the northern coal-field 
justified the advocates in an unusually full statement 
of their arguments and their demands. Starting from 
1871 a thorough description was given of the change 

1 Durham Chronicle, May 2nd, gth, i6th, 1879. Ballot for 
Committee, 18,446; for strike, 6,362; D.M.A. Records. 




in working conditions. It was the old story of high 
wages, high material costs, and low output; of the 
good fortune of the men with their short hours, their 
free houses, their coal and their gardens. Then came 
a new grievance, the failure of the sliding scale. 
Within a few months of its acceptance the price of 
coal had sunk below the lowest figure named in the 
schedule. But the men, firmly clinging to the letter 
f the agreement, would not allow their wages to 
follow at the pre-determined rate. Once wages had 
reached the indicated minimum, there they were 
preserved. As a result a great depression had come 
over the coal trade. Fifty-two pits had been closed, 
and in many more local wage reductions alone enabled 
work to be continued. The men themselves had sug- 
gested this wholesale evasion of the sliding scale. 
Pit by pit, with the knowledge, even with the tacit 
approval, of the union, they had struck bargains 
with their managers. It was time that the existence 
of these local reductions was honestly admitted, that 
they were incorporated in the formal county average. 
The men disputed the accuracy of the owners' 
figures. They opposed the use in argument of the 
tale of housing improvement. Such improvement was 
necessary. Had it not been made, it would have been 
ordered by the local sanitary authority. In many 
villages there were still houses unfit for human habita- 
tion. Were the men to pay, by a reduction of their 
wage, for the rebuilding of these hovels? Houses 
were as necessary a part of original capital costs as 
were winding engines. Lloyd Jones, again sitting as 


Crawford's companion, again intruded his uncom- 
fortable observations. To increase the length of the 
shift, said he, would rather increase unemployment 
than reduce working costs. The hewers were paid 
according to their output. Surely it could matter 
little to the owners whether for the hewing of a given 
quantity they paid one man or two? And despite 
the short shift it could not be disputed that man for 
man the Durham miners produced more than did 
their rivals in any other district. For the depression 
the men would take no responsibility. The blame 
rested on the owners alone. They had provoked it 
by their wild competition. In the hope of huge 
profits they had rapidly increased the potential out- 
put of their pits. The increased output had resulted 
in the fall in price which always accompanied a glut. 
The owners should bear the burden of their own 
folly. Moreover, it was to be remembered that there 
was a definite limit to the relief which reduction in 
wages could give. It was an economic law, as "in- 
exorable" as the law of supply and demand, that the 
wages of the workman should suffice for his support. 
The owners were a little taken aback at the boldness 
and persistence of the men, and the excellence of the 
information which enabled them to expose the in- 
consistency and untruth of the figures with which 
they had in the past been overwhelmed. Lloyd Jones 
had been too clever for them. Unguarded reply to 
the cross-examination which had been the feature 
of his two previous cases had furnished the men with 
much valuable information, insignificant as it had 


appeared when item by item it had been divulged. 
Lord Derby, after momentary alarm at the hint of 
a minimum wage, leaned more and more to the side 
of the men. His award, published at the end of July, 
took away from the men but ij per cent, of the basis 
wage. The sum of the two reductions which it 
authorised was 10 per cent., the exact amount which 
the men had offered to accept in the negotiations 
which preceded the strike. At the same time hints 
were made that no further relief was to be expected 
from wage reduction. Two sources, as yet untapped, 
were indicated, the salaries of the officials, and the 
rents of the royalty owners 1 . 

Many of the men were not far-sighted enough to 
understand the extent of their victory. There were 
many district meetings of protest at the outcome of 
the arbitration which they had fought so hard to 
obtain. In October a new Sliding Scale was devised. 
Based on the recent agreements, it was free from the 
defect of the scale which had proved of so little use. 
There was no limit fixed to the movement of wages : 
there was an end of the minimum. "All parties were 
agreed in this, for they had seen the evil which had 
arisen in the two years of its existence." 

The strike had saved the union. Deserters re-joined 
to help in the fight. Waverers were cheered by the 
proof that submission was not for ever to be the 
policy of the agents. And to the owners the strike 
was a warning not to persist in their campaign of 

1 Durham Coal-Trade Arbitration, July 1879. (DM. A. 
Records, Miners' Hall, Durham.) 

w 13 


destruction. Crawford gave them plain warning that 
persistence in opposition would produce its legacy of 
hate, and that the men would repay with interest 
a malevolence which pursued them in their weak- 

In five years of constant wage reduction the whole 
of the advances won in the years of prosperity had 
disappeared. The savings of those good times had 
been spent. The inrush of new men had been offset 
by recent emigration. The union funds, built up by 
so steady a refusal to strike, had in both Northum- 
berland and Durham been wasted in philanthropy, 
which the men now felt had but saved the owners 
from an increase in the poor rate. In one year, 1878, 
the Durham men spent 54,000 in the relief of un- 
employment. Then, in both counties, an impoverished 
union had been driven by unbearable demands into 
strikes. Yet in both counties, despite poverty, deser- 
tions, loss of funds, and widespread unemployment, 
union had survived. 

It was enough. In 1880 the price of coal began to 
rise. Better than that, the demand increased until 
the markets began to absorb the swollen output. It 
meant a return to steady employment, a boon in- 
finitely more precious than a small increase in the 
daily wage. In the period of distress the men had 
clung to their right to share in the conduct of the 
coal trade. For the next forty years joint committees, 
arbitration boards, sliding scales, were to satisfy their 
ambitions. With the better will, that their leaders 
were convinced of its folly, they had sacrificed the 


principle of the standard of life. They had given up 
their claim to a share in the profits of their trade. 
In exchange they had obtained unquestioned recog- 
nition of their union, a recognition which grew until 
men and owners felt and admitted a perfect equality 
in negotiation. 




BUNNING was right. It was a revival in the 
iron trade which was required to restore pros- 
perity to the collieries. But it was Bessemer's steel 
discoveries, not the cheapening of coal, which made 
an end of the pitman's starvation. In the early 
months of 1880 pit after pit re-opened, unemploy- 
ment diminished, and the working fortnight rose 
from seven days to the full eleven. In the soft coal 
districts, for whose product there was an ever-in- 
creasing demand, there followed a decade of peace 
broken only by local bickerings. It was the founda- 
tion of the union leaders' regard for the sliding scale. 
They admitted that as a system of wage assessment 
it did not secure for the men full justice, but they 
were persuaded that it had the merit of averting 
strife, and the poverty consequent on war. And since 
wages more nearly approached certain cost it brought 
a new steadiness to trade, for the owners were en- 
couraged by its existence to make long contracts. 
But the sliding scale was not the only cause of the 
strange quiet. Owners and men alike were exhausted 
by the long depression, afraid by any rash move to 
imperil the return of prosperity. 

In Durham the deputy dispute was allowed to 


remain unsettled for over two years. The union made 
no protest when it saw that the owners were resolved 
to encourage the new union of seceding officials. On 
their side the owners wisely ignored a half-hearted 
attempt to enforce a system of restriction of output, 
which finally collapsed through the refusal of the 
older men to limit their already insufficient wage. 
There was the same patient goodwill in Northumber- 
land. There, in the pits where the lamp was used, a 
small advance in wage was granted. But the men's 
demand for a rent allowance where no free house was 
available was bluntly refused a hearing. The weary 
tolerance of the men is shewn plainly by their attitude 
to the sliding scale. They disliked it, they criticised it, 
but they did not insist on its abolition. They were 
puzzled by the new and strange prosperity, in which 
demand steadily rose, while prices and wages re- 
mained at their old low level, but they did not revive 
their old claim for a share in the profits, plain as it 
might be that this claim alone could justify a new 
wage demand. They grumbled, but endured, and 
when their grumbling was at its loudest a return of 
the depression swept away the perplexing prosperity. 
As in the Chartist days the interest of the men was 
distracted by politics. By fighting their claim through 
every court of appeal the miners resident in the 
boroughs had established their right to vote. Though 
they paid neither rent nor rates the value in unclaimed 
wage of their "free house" entitled some of the 
miners to be ranked among the voting householders. 
The legality of their claim, and the injustice of the 


owners' attempts to oppose it, were for some years 
the subject of fierce discussion. Adverse decisions by 
revising barristers were eagerly noted, as plain illus- 
tration of the defects of a property basis for a modern 
democracy. In the north there was but one borough 
with a high proportion of pitmen householders, the 
Tory borough of Morpeth. In 1874 Burt, the secretary 
of the Northumberland miners, a hewer to whom a 
still distrusted combination of workmen paid an al- 
legiance which marked him as a dangerous dema- 
gogue, stood for the seat as a Radical. The Tories 
worked their hardest to enlist social feeling against 
so vulgar an intruder. Many of the Liberals found 
the concrete outcome of reform an unpleasant shock 
to their polite democratic enthusiasm. But the 
miners outvoted the respectable tradesmen and for 
the next forty years Burt sat in the House of Com- 
mons as a member of the advanced wing of the 
Liberal party. Many a miners' union sent a grant to 
help to pay his election expenses. His own associa- 
tion voted him a yearly salary of 500. Soon in both 
counties an agitation was begun for the removal of 
the legal anomaly which gave to one man the full 
rights of active citizenship but denied them to his 
neighbour who lived on the far side of an arbitrary 
boundary. Meetings were held at which the union 
agents forgot their industrial hopes in their political 
zeal. "County Franchise Associations" almost co- 
extensive with the unions were formed. 

In 1885 the extended franchise was won, and at 
once three more miners' members were elected. Two, 


Crawford and Wilson of Durham, were union officials, 
but in Northumberland Wansbeck sent Fenwick 
straight from the coal-face to Westminster, paying 
him, though he held no rank in the union, the salary 
they had offered to their secretary. 

While Burt stood alone his strength of character, 
his moderation, his simple pride in the honour with 
which the men had rewarded his labours, concealed 
all political difference. Even in the strike of 1878, 
when the men were starving and the union funds 
were exhausted, the suggestion was indignantly re- 
fused that they should withhold for a time his salary. 
If they were idle, his work at Westminster was still 
continuing. But when the number of miners' candi- 
dates grew, and it was seen that they were all to be 
of the same formal Liberal opinion, difference ap- 
peared. Until the county franchise was won the men 
were well content to see politics thrust trade matters 
from the place of honour at the annual galas. 
Bradlaugh, long the most popular speaker in the 
north, was always well received. His obscure birth, 
his early life, his fluent speech, and the injustice 
against which he struggled combined to win him the 
friendship of the pitmen. The majority shared his 
political views. Some few, especially in Northumber- 
land, were attracted by his materialistic philosophy. 

But when radical miners' agents began to advocate 
Home Rule with all the vigour and fervour which 
they had once expended on the union cause there 
were some protests. Not every miner could convince 
himself that Home Rule was a labour question, and 


that the Land League was a kind of trade society. 
The influx of the Irish black-legs, ignorant, violent, 
improvident, drunken, priest-attended, had not yet 
been forgotten. Nor was it forgotten that stout north- 
country pitmen had been driven to America by the 
wage competition of these strangers, and that in the 
recent trade depression the high number of surplus 
pitmen had compelled the adoption of a system of 
unemployment relief which had almost ruined the 
union. It was a common saying that prosperity 
would not return to the north until every Scotchman 
went home, bearing two Irishmen on his back. And, 
jeer at him as his leaders might, the Conservative 
working man stuck firmly to his political faith, the 
more so as foreign policy was of absorbing interest. 
Not every miner was captured by the cry of " Peace, 
Retrenchment, and Reform," nor convinced of the 
unwisdom of Disraeli's imperial schemes. The deser- 
tion of General Gordon caused none the less feeling 
in Northumberland because Burt was an admirer of 
Mr Gladstone, and a member of the party which had 
given his action countenance. At the first election 
Mr Wilson lost his seat, though his constituency was 
almost wholly devoted to mining. 

Though by their insistence on the need for im- 
proved inspection, and by their steady demand for a 
new Mines Act, the miners' members well earned 
their salaries, even their trade legislation did not meet 
with unqualified approval. Burt made his first im- 
portant step as a member of parliament when he 
elected to support the Employers' Liability Act. His 


first taste of public criticism was given him by 
Bryson, the president of the Northumberland Miners' 
Association. For the presidential speech at the 
Northumberland Gala of 1880 voiced the fear of the 
old pitmen that with the gain of a legal right to 
compensation they would lose the old, unquestioned 
payment of "smart money," the weekly five shillings 
which had been given from time immemorial to every 
injured miner 1 . There were many union men who said 
they wanted no legal protection, now that their 
strength added the power to strike to the old power 
of complaint. Burt replied that at the root of such 
criticism lay nothing but ignorance and local selfish- 
ness, for there were many miners in England to whom 
both strikes and smart money were alike unknown. 
The Durham miners passed a vote of indignant 
censure on Bryson. The Northumberland men refused 
next year to re-elect him to his office. He joined 
with Fynes, another rejected stalwart of the old times 
and the old opinions, in steady protest against this 
mistaken policy of political activity. 

Perhaps his cry did not remain entirely unheard. 
In 1887 the wisdom of heavy political expense was 
hotly questioned. The miners, then engaged in a 
strike which had begun in defiance of Burt's warnings, 
voted that the parliamentary salaries of their members 
should be discontinued. A delegate meeting reversed 
the decision, on the excuse that it had been made in 
a momentary fit of ill-temper. Burt was not content 
with such grudging hire. Next year he brought the 
1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June 24th, 1880. 


whole matter up again. He said that in his judgment 
the wisest policy for every miners' member was to 
continue "cordially and earnestly to work with the 
radicals" 1 , and by a narrow majority his salary was 
restored to him. The size of the adverse vote was 
witness to the feeling, common in both Northumber- 
land and Durham, that it would be better for the 
miners' agents to subordinate politics to trade 

The early miners' members were insistent in their 
cry that they did not represent the miners alone. As 
"working men members" they claimed to speak for 
every class in the country, though from a stand- 
point which differed from that hitherto adopted. To 
them Home Rule, Free Trade, and foreign policy, and 
every other essential of the Liberal programme, came 
before such minor matters as hours and wages. Trade 
legislation was a kind of private business. It had in 
view the interests of a class, temporarily, perhaps, 
deserving of unusual attention by reason of its 
numbers and of its long neglect. But it was a material 
change when the miners' members were to work with 
the Radical party: before, they had been within it. 
The distinction was a hint that the miners were not 
willing to be swept into the existing political system, 
there to have their views stretched on the bed of 
party allegiance. The miners' agents might be blind, 
in their Radical pride, to the fact that the party of 
their choice was fundamentally averse to the ill- 
defined political aspirations of their supporters, but 
1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, March lyth, 1888. 


Lloyd Jones, who had done the men such good service 
in the arbitrations, had a clearer vision. In 1885 he 
stood for Chester-le-Street as an independent " Miners' 
Candidate." A bargain with the Liberal party, which 
assured the agents safe tenure of their own seats, 
compelled them, at the same time, to give their help 
to Joicey, a coal-owner, and the official Liberal candi- 
date. Lloyd Jones was defeated though many of the 
miners supported him, and the quarrels which the 
election provoked hastened his death. The fact that 
this Welsh fustian cutter, who had become in his 
later days an independent journalist, received several 
thousand votes should have warned the Liberals that 
reverence for Mr Gladstone was not the whole of the 
miners' political creed. For Lloyd Jones was to the 
end of his life an opponent of those social and economic 
ideas based on the individual, utilitarian philosophy 
of which the Radicals were perhaps the most logical 
exponents. He had been one of the first disciples of 
Robert Owen; to the end of his life he clung to the 
ideal of the co-operative community, and preferred 
corporate development to unrestricted individual 
progress. It was not strange that in 1887, when the 
disciples of Marx first appeared in the north, that they 
should have found a field prepared for the harvest. 

In that year delegates from the London dockers 
addressed meeting after meeting in the north in sup- 
port of their claim that the state should possess itself 
of the means of production. In one Northumberland 
pit-village, 8000 men gave them an enthusiastic vote 
of support. At the annual gala the speakers were 


interrupted by cries unmistakably inspired by the 
new belligerent socialism, and two years later Henry 
George, the advocate of land nationalisation, ap- 
peared on the platform. Before long the men of both 
counties were demanding the abolition of royalty 
rents. More and more the new cry for economic 
change took the place of the old Radical political 
enthusiasm until in the north the formal Liberals 
saw their alliance with the miners broken by what 
they were pleased to call ingratitude. Nor did 
national politics alone attract the newly enfranchised 
pitmen. As soon as a measure of local government 
was given them they prepared to take full advantage 
of it. At its formation a quarter of the Durham 
County Council was composed of miners' nominees, 
and before many years that proportion was exceeded. 
At the same time there was an unprecedented and 
perhaps unequalled awakening of interest in educa- 
tion. In the middle of the century the adult miner 
painfully learned to read in the hall of some Methodist 
Sunday School. In 1883 the University Extension 
Lectures were given the official support of the 
Durham Miners' Association. At union meetings, in 
the union circulars, the advantages of study were 
urged upon the miners. Over a thousand men 
attended the lectures given that winter, losing wages, 
and paying fines for shifts missed to learn elementary 
science, history, and political economy. The local 
secretary of the movement paid a high tribute to 
the intelligence of his new pupils, to their straight- 
forwardness of speech, and their appreciative atten- 


tion. Many of them had read the works of John 
Stuart Mill, and all of them seemed ripe for a scheme 
of education of a more advanced order than that 
provided by the elementary schools 1 . The local news- 
papers devoted whole pages to articles on mining 
science, law and history, even to subjects more ab- 
stract such as economics and philosophy. The fierce 
battles which raged in their columns shewed that 
much of this new information was eagerly received, 
much thoroughly digested. In particular the belief 
of Lloyd Jones that over-production was the cause 
of all the mysterious poverty was called in question. 
He wished to control output. He hoped to put a 
stop to the reckless competition of the capitalists by 
a system of organised restriction. His articles in 
the Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle produced many a 
champion eager to confute his economic heresy by 
exposition of Burt's text that to produce less was 
a mistaken policy if it were dictated by a hope of 
adding to the workman's share. Political interest 
and secular education dealt heavy blows to the old 
enthusiasm for Methodist religion. Economic law 
was quoted where once the Sermon on the Mount 
had sufficed. On the union banners party cries re- 
placed the Bible texts. The young men began to 
aspire for success more worldly than that witnessed 
by a place on the connexion plan. 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, March 3ist, 1883. 



1880 was an uneventful year. In Northumberland, 
under the terms of the sliding scale, there was a last 
wage reduction 1 , but in both counties, by the end of 
the year, a small general advance was made, while 
in the meantime the whole of the local reductions 
had been everywhere returned. Best of all steady 
work encouraged the pit-wives to resume their old 
habits of generous housekeeping. A mark of the re- 
turning prosperity was the announcement in February 
by the Durham Miners' Association that its funds 
had so far improved as to allow of return to the higher 
scale of financial benefits. The relief fund and the 
strike had brought bankruptcy so near that only the 
adoption of a rigid system of economy had averted a 
complete suspension of payments. In turn three 
matters demanded the attention of the agents, a 
cokemen's strike, an owners' protest, and the un- 
settled deputies' question. The strike was settled 
within a week of its beginning 2 : the owners' protest 
was answered almost as rapidly. In January the 
Durham Miners' Council, a full gathering of delegates 
from every lodge, had passed a resolution that no 
hewer should get coal when his day's output seemed 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Jan. lyth, 1880. 

2 Durham Chronicle, March 5th, gth, 1880. 


sufficient to assure him a wage of 45. 2d. 1 In March 
the owners stumbled on definite proof of the existence 
of this policy. There was a short strike at Hetton 
which in the end was referred to the Joint Committee. 
There it was admitted in evidence that for some time 
a partial restriction had been in operation, of which 
the motive was desire to maintain a tonnage rate 
slightly above that at which the county average wage 
could be earned. Several other disputes revealed a 
similar evasion of the understanding that the men 
were to work to the best of their ability. Suspicion 
grew that the restriction was not, as in the past, local 
defiance of the agents' orders, and in the end a 
definite notice was found at Seaham that "next week 
restriction would begin according to rule." Running, 
the owners' secretary, sent a copy of the notice to 
Crawford, with a remark that such a rule, if in exist- 
ence, was a breach of the sliding scale agreement. The 
agents warned the men of his action, and ad vised them 
to order the withdrawal of the February resolution 2 . 
They did so, and, as Wilson, later the union secre- 
tary, said, " thus ended the only county attempt to en- 
force uniformity of piece work. It ended as all such 
attempts will end. Human nature is too strong for 
such arrangements" 3 . Meantime several small mat- 
ters hindered the settlement of the deputies' dispute. 
There was a short and successful strike at Wood- 
lands, against the imposition of a local reduction, a 

1 DM. A. Records, Jan. iyth, Feb. I4th, 1880. 

2 Ibid. March 25th, 1880. 

3 J. Wilson, The Hist, of the DM. A. p. 169. 


strike at Bearpark, to check the employment of non- 
unionists 1 . There had been friction over an attempt 
by the men to employ the official method of coercion, 
refusal to "ride" with the black-legs, that is, to des- 
cend the shaft in their company. The strike had the 
usual indecisive result, for both manager and men 
had never expected it to be fought to a definite and 
logical conclusion. A disaster at Seaham provoked 
a much more bitter quarrel. 

The pit, admittedly well-managed, was wrecked in 
September by a mysterious explosion, and 164 men 
were killed. Before the rescue party could recover 
the bodies a fire broke out, and it was decided to 
isolate the seam, where many of them lay, with air- 
tight stoppings. Years before a similar action had 
provoked a strike, for the men then thought that 
their comrades had been too easily abandoned, but 
on this occasion there was little outcry. The men 
seemed ready to resume work, for though a few in 
terror decided to abandon the pits they were new- 
comers to whom five years before the high wages had 
been an irresistible bait. But the cause of the disaster 
was hotly disputed. The coroner's jury said that there 
was no sign of gas in the pit, but that the explosion 
had begun in an atmosphere thick with coal dust. 
Almost all the older men refused to accept this theory. 
Blasting, said they, was the origin of every mysterious 
occurrence : dust was harmless, as by experience they 
well knew 2 . Meantime the agents were busy over a 

1 Durham Chronicle, July i6th, Oct. ist, 1880. 

2 Ibid. Sept. i yth, 1880. 


strike at South Moor 1 . The owners, who were not 
members of the owners' association, refused to accept 
an award by which an umpire had authorised a slight 
reduction in the hours of colliery mechanics. The 
Durham Federation, that close alliance of all the 
local unions of colliery workers, brought out every 
man employed in the pit. Almost at once the owners 
found a sufficient number of black-legs to enable them 
restart work. They evicted the strikers, ignoring 
the protests of the union, which six weeks later was 
compelled to declare the strike at an end and to re- 
move the strikers to other villages. The most violent 
circulars on the cruelty of the evictions failed to 
arouse any general enthusiasm. The strike, from the 
first ill-supported, ended in failure more than usually 
complete 2 . 

Suddenly, at Christmas, when the Seaham pit had 
been roughly repaired, the hewers refused to return 
to work 3 . They said that it was a breach of all colliery 
custom and a blatant disrespect of the dead to hew 
coal while there were bodies in a pit. For a time 
the trouble was overlooked. It was thought that the 
men would soon tire of their unprofitable mourning 
and that the strike would come to an end. Again 
the attention of the agents was claimed by other 
matters. In the new year the question of the in- 
equality of the deputies' wage was settled by arbitra- 
tion. Early in February, 1881, the umpire, John 

1 D.M.A. Records, Oct., Nov. I3th, 1880. 

2 Durham Chronicle, Nov. igth, Dec. 3rd, 1880. 
8 Ibid. Dec. lyth, 1880. 

w 14 


Hinde Palmer, made award that the wage difference 
between the two classes, the union and the non- 
union men, should be removed 1 . The owners' position 
was untenable. There was reason in their claim that 
it was bad for discipline for officials to be members 
of a society primarily intended for the men. There 
was even some truth in the allegation that local 
lodges had censured deputies for too zealous per- 
formance of their duties, and had forbidden them to 
work the full number of shifts. But neither of these 
matters provided argument for the creation of a dif- 
ference in wage between the deputy who remained 
in the union, and the deputy who withdrew. It was, 
in truth, a bribe to induce desertion from the union. 
The award was not well received, for the owners made 
a foolish quibble on its right interpretation. Not until 
May, when Hinde Palmer restated his judgment, was 
the matter finally settled. It seemed that the owners' 
action was dictated by an obstructive petulance, the 
outcome of the failure of their scheme for accident 
insurance. They had asked the men to confer with 
them, in the hope of arranging some system of com- 
pensation which would satisfy the provisions of the 
new Employers' Liability Act. It was suggested that 
the "Provident" could be made the basis of a com- 
prehensive insurance society, contribution to which 
should be obligatory on owners and men. But the 
miners' agents said that in spirit "Contracting Out" 
was an evasion of the law. Their desire was not money 

1 DM. A. Records, Aug. i6th, 1880; March 1881. Deputy 
Arbitration. (Book, Miners' Hall, Durham.) 


compensation, but increased safety. Their support 
had been given to the Act, when it carne before 
parliament, in the hope that increased pecuniary 
liability for accident would compel the owners to 
more thorough precaution in working. They were not 
moved by a threat to discontinue the payment of 
"smart money." "Smart money," they said, was no 
charitable concession, but a definite part of the wage 1 . 
In the midst of these arguments they discovered 
that the Seaham strike was still continuing. The agents 
knew that the burning seam would be kept sealed 
for several more months. They were not convinced 
of the wisdom of the strike, but they agreed that it 
would be unnecessary harshness to deny the Seaham 
men strike allowance. They hoped that soon an end 
would be made of the protracted mourning, but in 
February the strike was still continuing, though the 
men had spent their savings and the women and 
children were beginning to suffer from privation 2 . 
The union grant of 750 a week was wholly insufficient 
for the needs of the strikers, to each of whom it 
brought but los. a week. An appeal was made for 
a lodge levy, but its success did not bring complete 
relief, and starvation soon had its usual fellow, 
violence. Towards the end of the month a series of 
fierce riots, arising out of an attack on some black- 
legs, disturbed the peace of the village. To persuade 
the men that their persistence was ridiculous the 

1 DM. A. Records, Dec. 1880. Durham Chronicle, Dec. 3rd, 
I7th, 3ist, 1880. 

2 Durham Chronicle, Feb. 4th, i8th, 1881. 



owners brought together several notable engineers, 
who agreed that it would be impossible for many 
months to reach the burning seam. It was of no 
avail, and to end the strike they were driven to 
threaten the men with eviction. The threat was 
enough: work was about to be resumed, when the 
manager refused to re-engage twenty-six men whom 
he accused of having been guilty of inexcusable 
outrage. Though later the number was reduced to 
eight it included most of the lodge officials, and on 
those terms the men refused to bargain. Crawford, 
thoroughly weary of the whole dispute, persuaded the 
manager to re-employ the marked men on condition 
that they gave a promise to resign as soon as the 
union could find them work elsewhere 1 . Work was 
started, but the promise was not fulfilled. Not until 
May, when eviction had actually been begun, was 
there an end to the strike 2 . 

After eighteen months of quiet prosperity a new 
depression began 3 . To check the unemployment two 
remedies were suggested, emigration, and restriction 
of output. Lloyd Jones' socialist sermons, in the New- 
castle (Weekly) Chronicle, closely copied by Crawford's 
monthly circular to the union lodges, blamed the 
owners for the threatened poverty, asserting that 
the reckless competition of capital always resulted 
in over-production, and glut. It was a doctrine which 
met steady contradiction, and Crawford in the end 

1 Durham Chronicle, March 4th, nth, 25th, 1881. 
3 Ibid. May I3th, 1881. 
3 Ibid. Aug. 1 2th, 1 88 1. 


was put to silence 1 . As the year drew to a close there 
was a slight trade revival, though it was too un- 
certain to check the stream of emigration. In 1881 
as many as 3000 people left Durham for the United 
States. But they did not take kindly to their new 
home. In frequent letters they warned their friends 
against the discomforts of the new country, the high 
prices, the long hours, the disregard of safety, and 
the fanatical opposition to union. As soon as they 
could collect together their passage money many of 
them returned. 

Meantime the dislike of the sliding scale began to 
make itself heard in every quarter. In April the 
Northumberland men voted that their agreement 
with the owners should be allowed to lapse, if the 
rent allowance should still be refused. In June the 
owners made partial surrender. Though at the existing 
coal-price they asserted that no rent could be paid, 
they offered to add a small, variable, allowance to 
the sliding scale. Grudgingly their offer was ac- 
cepted, and in October a small increase of 2,\ per 
cent, brought hope for the new year. In Durham 
1881 passed with no wage change whatever, and as 
work grew slack agitation began again for a return 
to the old principle of a minimum wage of about 
55. a day 2 . 

" It is no secret," said the Durham Chronicle, " that during 
the whole of its existence the present sliding scale has 
been steadily opposed by many of the men whose voices 

1 DMA. Records, Aug. and Sept. 1881. 

2 DM. A. Records, Lodge Resolutions, 1881, late. 


are never heard in trade dispute outside their lodge 
rooms" 1 . 

But the grumblings were silenced. The activities of 
the County Franchise Association embarked at last 
on a definite campaign for the election of its chosen 
candidates diverted the attention of the men from 
trade grievance to political ambition. 

Meantime in the last week of December a strike 
began which was to ensure a sufficiency of incident 
for the next two years. Westoe, the lodge secretary of 
Ushaw Moor, was dismissed from the colliery for 
persistent absence, and for filling dirt among his coal 2 . 
The dismissal was but the outward sign of a wide- 
spread dissatisfaction. The owners said that the men 
had deliberately increased their lost time, at the 
moment some 23 per cent., as part of a general policy 
of restriction of output, and that the pit had come 
entirely under the control of the local union officials, 
who were men unfit for their responsible positions. 
The men complained of the general attitude of the 
manager: he was discourteous, overbearing, violent 
both in speech and action. In the hearing of Crawford 

he called the men "a set of lazy b s" 3 . It was an 

indiscretion he was not allowed to forget. 

Ushaw Moor was a colliery with an unusually high 
proportion of Irish Catholic pitmen, and race and 
religion soon added their prejudice to what became 
almost at once an unnecessarily bitter struggle. If 
the actions of the manager shewed that he lacked 

1 Durham Chronicle, Dec. 23rd, 1881. 

2 Ibid. Jan. 6th, 1882. 3 DM. A. Records, Jan. 1882. 


both tact and self-control, time was to prove that the 
men had chosen unworthy leaders, men not ashamed 
of taking the lead in drunken brawls and more calcu- 
lated violence. South Moor, which had struck on a 
question of mechanics' hours, had been but ill-sup- 
ported, but this new strike, which embraced every 
one of the traditional hewers' quarrels, was judged 
worthy of more generous interest. Mixed with the 
hints that union and restriction were the main points 
at issue were stories of the bullyings of a surly 
manager, of fines for improper tub-filling, of inter- 
ference with the right of the men to stay at their will 
from work. By lodge levies the strike pay of los. 
a week was raised to i6s., and carts sent round the 
nearer collieries returned laden with bread 1 . In 
January the first men were evicted. Father Fortin, 
the village priest, offered the union his schools as a 
dormitory for the women and children. The men 
built themselves an encampment in the fields. In 
February the evictions were completed 2 , and the 
daily parade of the strikers, a somewhat disorderly 
march past the pit-head and the houses of the black- 
legs, had become so much a routine that it had lost 
its demonstrative value. Soon one of the men was 
charged with a more direct act of intimidation, but 
he escaped conviction. In revenge Robinson, the 
manager, was summoned by the wife of the lodge 
president for assault. He had pushed rudely by her 
during the later evictions, but his action could hardly 

1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. 2yth, 1882. 

2 Ibid. Feb. 3rd, 1882. 


be construed into an assault. In March a mass 
meeting was held to enable the neighbouring lodges 
to have the cause of the dispute explained to them. 
The wage figures given by the owners were flatly 
contradicted. The dismissal in turn of such deputies 
as were members of the miners' union seemed proof 
sufficient that Robinson was a reactionary, deter- 
mined at all points to oppose the men. And, in 
regular monthly circulars, Crawford continued to 
repeat the story of the insult to his dignity. If the 
manager dared to use foul language in his presence 
it was certain that on less formal occasions his be- 
haviour was unbearable 1 . 

The owners replied by charging several of the 
women with intimidation. They escaped with a 
strong lecture from the magistrates. Then three men 
were arrested on a charge of wounding a black-leg. 
Westoe and Lee, the lodge secretary and president, 
were the two leading offenders. At first bail was refused 
them, but at the trial they made a successful defence, 
proving an alibi, and compelling the black-leg to 
admit that he had returned home drunk and bleeding, 
but ignorant that an assault had been committed 
on him. Father Fortin began to take a more prominent 
part in the strike. He complained that the colliery 
policeman had ejected him from houses to which he 
was making a priestly visit, and that several similar 
discourtesies had been offered him. Robinson, the 
manager, had used "unrepeatable language" about 
Irishmen in general, and the teacher in the Catholic 
1 DM. A. Records, March and April Circular, 1882. 


schools had been unable to obtain a house. The 
Methodist under-officials made immediate reply. It 
was the Catholics who owned all the land in the 
parish, and they had set the fashion of religious in- 
tolerance by refusing to sell any to the Methodists 
as a site for a chapel 1 . 

Meantime the number of black-legs was steadily 
increasing. In April thirty hewers appeared from 
South Staffordshire 2 . The union met them and per- 
suaded them to return, though it seemed probable 
that the visit had been designed simply as a drain 
on the funds. About the same time one of the black- 
legs was assaulted and his skull beaten in. A drunken 
miner from Brancepeth was his actual assailant, but 
a group of strikers from Ushaw Moor watched the 
murder, and made no effort at interference. Only 
the actual criminal was hanged, and perhaps it was 
the accident that a fence-rail studded with nails lay 
ready to his hand which turned his assault into a 
serious crime. Both sides increased the violence of 
their methods. In June a striker, who in the presence 
of the manager and the chief owner of the colliery 
had made a savage assault on a deserter, was sent 
to prison for three months 3 . But within a few days 
both the owner and the manager were successfully 
charged with a similar crime. A second time Robinson 
was fined. He had overwhelmed a chance met striker 
with abuse, and then, unprovoked, had knocked him 

1 Durham Chronicle, March lyth, 24th, 3ist, 1882. 

2 Ibid. April I4th, 1882. 
8 Ibid. June gth, 1882. 


down. A black-leg who stabbed a striker was sent to 
prison for six months, saved from a longer sentence 
by his plea that the crime was committed under ap- 
prehension of personal danger 1 . Twice more Robinson 
was successfully prosecuted, once for destroying a 
public footbridge which was a convenient short-cut 
for the men into the village, and once for discharging 
fire-arms on the highway. He had "protected" him- 
self from a hooting mob by firing a revolver towards 
the leaders. 

Such trivialities suggested to the county that the 
strike had ceased to serve a useful purpose. In 
September the lodges began to question the wisdom 
of its continuance. They sent delegates to investigate 
the truth of the owners' claim that the pit was in 
full work. But Crawford's wrath made sure that the 
strike would continue. "Never in the whole of my 
twenty years experience of negotiations," said he, 
"have I met with such discourtesy, nor known such 
unfair demands from the men, as Robinson has 
made" 2 . Christmas brought plain proof that normal 
life had returned to the colliery. The black-legs made 
a presentation to one of the overmen. In the strikers' 
encampment a rival ceremony was held. Father 
Fortin, for his stout support of the union, was given 
a gold watch and chain 3 . In February, 1883, the 
manager resigned. He was given a handsome testi- 
monial, and the vicar led the speeches, paying tribute 

1 Durham Chronicle, July 2ist, 1882. 

2 Ibid. Sept. 1 5th, 1882. 

3 Ibid. Dec. 8th, I5th, 1882. 


to his long, successful, and generous management. 
But the hope that the departure of the manager would 
make an end of the strike were soon disappointed. 
Its object had long been forgotten. It seemed to have 
become a struggle with little more meaning than the 
faction fights of an Irish town. The strikers had come 
to prefer the daily march past the colliery, and the 
weekly meeting of protest, to the hope of a return 
to work. The rough life of the bivouac drove them to 
the comfort of the inn-parlour. There drunken debate 
led to argument, argument to defiance, defiance to 
quarrels. In April Lee, the lodge president, was fined 
for an assault on a soldier who happened to be 
visiting a friend in the village. He ventured into the 
inn where Lee sat drinking, and an argument ended 
in a fight 1 . In June half-a-dozen strikers were sent to 
jail for a similar disturbance 2 . Early in the autumn 
the Lords of the Privy Council ordered the priest 
to return his schools to their proper use 3 . Already he 
had lost the grant from the education rate, though 
the union funds made good the deficiency. Now the 
women left their dormitory to shelter themselves 
with such friends as were able to receive them. Mean- 
time the men remained in their encampment. In 
November Crawford resolved to make an end of the 
strike. Once his advice was rejected by the union 
council, but in December he laid the matter before 
the whole county. A circular recited the facts of the 
defeat, that the pit was in full work, the colliery 

1 Durham Chronicle, April 2oth, 1883. 

2 Ibid. June i5th, 1883. 8 Ibid. Aug. 24th, 1883. 


houses full, the evicted men scattered over the whole 
coal-field. A quarrel with the manager had begun 
the strike, but long ago the manager had departed. 
An end must be made of so purposeless a struggle. 
The strikers could be supported, as "sacrificed men" 
victims to the owners' resentment, until such time 
as they could obtain work 1 . It was enough. A vote 
brought the strike to an end. It had lasted two years. 
It had cost the union 5707. 35. 6%d. The money had 
purchased nothing but ridiculous defeat. 

Ushaw Moor was not the only centre of unrest. 
In the same two years, on the single question of the 
employment of non-unionists, there were half-a- 
dozen local strikes. Such strikes as a rule were begun 
with little intention of forcing new members into the 
union. Their design was to reclaim those members 
who from carelessness or too narrow economy allowed 
their subscriptions to fall into arrear. To remind 
them of their fallen status here and there a lodge put 
into practice the rule which forbade union men to 
descend the shaft in company with a black-leg. After 
a short strike the deserters returned to their allegiance, 
perhaps bringing with them a few of the men who had 
always shrunk from the payment of the subscription. 
Such strikes were not directed against the owners, 
and as a rule they received little encouragement from 
the union head-quarters, for the agents knew that the 
decline in a lodge membership was usually the fault 
of an inefficient secretary, or a general neglect of 
union exhortations to good-fellowship and enthusiasm. 
1 DM. A. Records, Dec. 29th, 1883. 


In addition there were several strikes among the 
putters. Perhaps because an unusual number of 
young men had gone with the emigrants, perhaps 
because of a slow change in working practice, there 
were many signs of a shortage of putters. In particular 
the hewers made steady complaint that the practice 
was on the increase of taking them from their proper 
work to put. As a consequence of this shortage the 
average age of the putters rose. Many of them were 
young men of twenty, some of them were married, 
fathers and the heads of households. Strikes among 
these young men, technically still known as boys, 
became every year more common, and they were the 
more serious because they were as a rule lightly 
begun, with little appeal to authority, and little 
respect for rule and formality. The old safeguard, 
that the putters were under the control of their 
parents, became yearly of less value. 

Meantime a new development of union strength 
turned every local dispute into a serious danger. At 
Auckland Park the sudden resignation of eight 
deputies from the union became the cause of a strike. 
The lodge refused to work with these deserters until 
they paid the whole of the arrears of subscription 
which they had incurred. To settle the dispute the 
manager discharged the offenders, and sent them 
back to hew. He had been in no way concerned in 
the strike, but he was seriously alarmed by the dis- 
covery of an agreement between the whole of the 
Bolkow Vaughan collieries to join in any strike which 
involved one of the lodges 1 . In the same manner a 
1 Durham Chronicle, May I2th, 1882. 


strike at Brandon was hastily compromised, at the 
discovery of a similar agreement among the men em- 
ployed by Messrs Straker and Love, the owners of 
the affected colliery 1 . This readiness of groups of pits 
to combine for mutual action over trivial matters 
was a spontaneous outcome of a new consciousness 
of strength. It had neither the sanction nor the 
encouragement of the agents, who indeed a little 
distrusted this tendency to devolution, and local 

In August, 1882, local strikes had become so 
numerous and so troublesome that Crawford felt 
compelled to issue a circular of warning and protest 2 . 
Their continuance, said he, would imperil the agree- 
ment with the owners, and the existence of some 
agreement was essential to peace. But though most 
of the men were prepared to accept his views on the 
necessity for good relations with the owners, many 
of them were convinced that the agreement under 
which they were working was bad in detail. In 
February the council had decided that an advance 
of 20 per cent, in the basis wage was a necessary 
preliminary to a renewal of the sliding scale. They 
were offered an increase of 2} per cent. By the in- 
sistence of the agents they were persuaded to accept 
this unsatisfactory bargain, made the more acceptable 
by the addition of a further temporary advance of 
3| per cent. In May a new sliding scale had come into 
force 3 . But though Crawford was at pains to explain 

1 Durham Chronicle, Aug. nth, 1882. 

2 DM. A. Records, Aug. 1882. 

3 Sliding Scale Agreement, April 29th, 1882. 


that the scale contained no provision for a minimum 
wage, he could not destroy the men's desire for a 
return to the device which had been tried, if with 
little success, some six years before. A new depression 
warned the men that their hopes of a wage increase 
under the new scale were doomed to disappointment. 
Alternately they began to ask for the fixing of a 
lew minimum, or for a return to the old policy of 
output restriction, concealed under the demand for 
more holidays, shorter hours, and a five-day week. 
In Northumberland, though local strikes were less 
frequent, there was much widespread discontent. 
There was the same dissatisfaction with the sliding 
scale, the same recurrence of lodge resolutions for a 
change in the basis wage, the same reply by the 
agents that the scale, though imperfect, was the best 
method yet devised of wage settlement, and that the 
owners could not be bullied into granting an increase. 
It was admitted that of late the county had been 
more fortunate in its competition with Wales. The 
owners, assured by the sliding scale of continued 
peace, able, moreover, to reckon on a stable wage, 
had begun to underbid their rivals in the foreign 
markets. Meantime a festival of union diverted the 
men from speculation, to memories of past triumphs. 
On Christmas Day, 1882, a great gala was held at 
Ely the to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the 
foundation of the union 1 . All the veterans of the 
pioneer combinations were assembled, fifteen who 
had fought with Hepburn, nineteen who had stood 
1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Dec. soth, 1882. 


by Jude. There were still five of the "Apostles" alive 
who had journeyed in vain to London to collect 
funds for the strike of 1844. Many of them spoke 
from the platform. They had been driven from the 
pits, and compelled, as one of them remarked, "to 
better their situations." Now the leaders of union did 
not need to tramp from door to door, and beg their 
bread: they sat at Westminster, governors of the 
nation. Few words were needed to emphasise so 
plain an object lesson on the benefits of union. It 
was a broad hint that leaders who had achieved so 
much were still worthy of the confidence of the men. 
When the sliding scale agreement expired, by a small 
majority the union authorised its renewal. In March 
1883 the particulars of the new scale were made 
public. There was no great change in the basis wage. 
In fact, the scale was almost a repetition of the old 
one, with its plain statement that there was to be no 
limit, upwards or downwards, to wage movement 1 . 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, March lyth, 1883. J. C. 
Munro, Sliding Scales in the Coal Industry (1885). 



IT was known to the men that the cost of coal 
production was falling. The unprofitable seams, 
opened in the years of crazy prosperity, were by this 
time all abandoned. Low price had compelled at- 
tention to working practice, redundant men had been 
dismissed, and a harsh if necessary economy had 
reduced the numbers of the old and feeble hewers. 
Since 1879 the output of the individual hewer had 
been steadily rising 1 . It was natural that the more 
thinking men should be convinced that, even with 
the continuance of low prices, a wage increase might 
justly be demanded. Moreover, the more intelligent 
saw a fundamental defect in the sliding scale, that 
it enabled the owners to quote low prices in their 
competition for contracts. Here was a system in 
which the wage was conditioned by the price, yet it 
offered temptation for a continued price reduction! 
They began to search for a remedy which should 
more nearly reach the root of their poverty. 

In the autumn of 1882 a general conference of the 
Miners' National Association met in Leeds. This 
National Association was a kind of loose federation 
by which the miners' unions of the whole country 

1 Reports of H.M. Inspectors of Mines, 1879, 1880, 1881, 

w 15 


kept themselves reminded of their common industrial 
desires. It had no control over its members. It had 
no fund. A small grant was made by each affiliated 
union to pay necessary expenses, mostly incurred by 
promoting legislation. Most of its officials held high 
place in the two north-country unions, which in those 
days were unrivalled in financial strength, organisa- 
tion, stability, and firm purpose. To its meetings 
delegates were welcome, whether their unions were 
weak or strong. Side by side with Burt and Crawford, 
who could speak for three-quarters of the miners of 
the north, sat unknown men, sent by the scattered 
enthusiasts of the Midland collieries, where but 10 per 
cent, of the miners had heard of combination. Yet 
they spoke with an equal voice, and the delegate who 
appeared and claimed a seat, though in his district 
union was still unknown, had a vote as weighty as 
Crawford himself, for all his 30,000 men. Ignoring 
its own futility this conference passed resolutions, 
calling for a general strike and a definite policy of 
restriction of output. Burt, the president, exposed 
the folly of the proceedings, but soon both he and 
Crawford were engaged in the difficult task of ex- 
plaining to their own supporters the reasons for their 
refusal to abide by the "majority vote" of the 
National Conference l . For its schemes were in accord 
with the desires of many of the hewers in the north. 
It was at the moment when Lloyd Jones was most 
insistent on his doctrine that over-production was 
the cause of the depressions which came so regularly 
1 DM. A. Records, March 1883. 


to rob the miner of his prosperity 1 . Burt was opposed 
to the whole principle of restriction and the Northum- 
berland men were content to be guided by his wisdom, 
but Crawford was less easily convinced that Lloyd 
Jones was a preacher of economic heresy. He opposed 
immediate resort to restriction, chiefly because its 
enforcement seemed impossible. Perhaps some day, 
when thorough organisation should give the miner 
strength commensurate with his latent powers, con- 
trol of production would come, to end poverty and 
unemployment alike. It was his belief that "as men 
get wiser they will not go on working for ever for 
somebody else, but will claim and obtain a much 
greater share of the wealth which they themselves 
produce" 2 . He had learned enough of the new 
Marxian creed, or the old socialist doctrine, to pro- 
mise his men 

that the doctrine which teaches the entire subservience 
of labour to capital, . . . and that the laws of supply and 
demand shall determine whether the workman shall be 
fairly fed and clothed, or starved and ill-clothed, shall 
at all times have my most strenuous opposition 3 . 

But as he well knew the time for action was not yet, 
and at last he persuaded the Durham men also of 
the impossibility of raising the price of coal by inter- 
ference with its supply. 

When the lodges saw that their demands for a 
wage advance, or a new attempt at restriction, in- 
evitably incurred his opposition, they began to cloak 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, 1882-83. 

2 DM. A. Records, May 1881. 8 Ibid. Oct. 1880. 



their desires under repeated requests that the hours 
of work should be reduced, that Saturday labour 
should be discontinued, and that the time of coal- 
drawing should be fixed at ten hours, instead of the 
eleven which was the general rule. In May 1883 
these requests were embodied in the formal list of 
demands which it had become the practice to present 
once a quarter to the owners 1 . Other desired im- 
provements had a less involved origin. As the extent 
of the workings increased the necessity for the intro- 
duction of a payment for the journey from the shaft 
to the face became more and more apparent, and 
there was no principle involved in the demand for 
a higher rent allowance, fewer extra shifts, and a 
more definite scale of wages for the boys. Most of 
these requests were made in hope rather than ex- 
pectation and there was no great dissatisfaction when 
they were refused, especially when in September the 
boys' wage scale was revised 2 . In the autumn the 
dislike of the sliding scale could no longer be con- 
cealed. Lodges began again to send to the general 
council of the union the old resolutions, asking for 
its abolition, for a general wage advance, or for the 
insertion in the agreement of a clause which should 
sanction a minimum below which wages could not 
fall 3 . 

When the owners made reply that the low price 
of coal did not permit of wage concessions, an attack 
began on the royalty system. Strangely enough it 

1 DMA. Records, May 1883. z Ibid. Sept. 1883. 

3 Ibid. Oct., Nov., 1883. 


was the outcome of a series of colliery disasters. In 
February, 1882, seventy-three men were killed at 
Trimdon Grange. In April, fifty more lost their lives 
in three less notable explosions. Most of the victims 
were members of the " Provident," which had not yet 
recovered from the expense of the Seaham disaster. 
It was threatened with financial exhaustion, for in 
three years, in addition to its regular daily expenses, 
it had incurred unexpected liabilities amounting to 
over 42,000. It dared not raise the subscriptions, 
sixpence a fortnight was as much as the men could 
well pay, for they had their union subscription also, 
the occasional levies, the dues of their friendly society, 
and probably some payment to their chapel fund. 
Since the passing of the Employers' Liability Act 
most of the owners had withdrawn their former sub- 
scriptions. There seemed but one untapped source of 
revenue, the rents of the royalty owners. Suggestions 
became common that a definite tax should be levied 
on royalties for the relief of the widows and orphans. 
It was a hint to the men, so long dissatisfied with 
their low wages. They began to reply to wage 
demands by asking the owners to seek relief rather 
from their wealthy landlords than from their hewers. 
When in the spring of 1884 the Durham sliding 
scale agreement expired, the men could not be per- 
suaded to renew it. The owners warned them that a 
new depression was about to begin, and that only 
by immediate tender could they secure contracts 
sufficient to keep their pits at work. They asked that 
any new agreement should be made for three years, 


not the customary two, and as an additional security 
they suggested that it should include three new con- 
ditions. The first was that the miners' association 
should pay damages for illegal strikes, and for cases 
of refusal to submit demands to the judgment of the 
County Joint Committee. The second was that men 
who lived in colliery houses should pay a fine for 
every day of inexcusable absence. The third was that 
there should be a distinct understanding that the 
manager could employ whom he wished 1 . It was the 
indiscipline in the union which caused the owners to 
make these requests 1 . There was little fault to find 
with its general policy, but there were many lodges 
which shewed their discontent by the adoption of an 
aggressive attitude, which restricted the number of 
shifts their members could work, and censured the 
deputies for too zealous performance of their duties. 
Crawford was in favour of some concession. He had 
been deeply impressed by the general feeling of gloom 
which had prevailed at a recent conference of the 
Miners' National Association. Every delegate had 
made report of the coming of hard times. But until 
the men had experienced the depression they could 
not be convinced of the need for submission. In 
March, 1884, a general council of the Durham Associa- 
tion was convened, to consider what should be the 
reply of the union to the owners' policy of closing pits 
and dismissing men 2 . It was generally thought that 
this timorous economy had been adopted to drive 

1 DM. A. Records, Dec. 1883. 
z Ibid. March 22nd, 1884. 


the men into a renewal of the sliding scale agreement. 
Resolutions were brought forward, and eagerly carried, 
that until the owners offered some explanation of 
their actions the men should restrict their output, 
and proceed to a general vote as a threat of a strike. 
Though the number of men unemployed was in- 
creasing, and though many were getting work only 
by offering to pay their own rent, in April the council 
was still full of suspicion. As a necessary preliminary 
to the discussion of a new wage agreement it demanded 
that all the pits should be reopened. In May the 
agents warned the men of the folly of continued 
blindness. The time had gone for delay. The owners 
had made a demand "for a substantial reduction of 
wages," a demand which they were prepared to en- 
force. Lodges which had begun to ask for unemploy- 
ment relief could no longer refuse to believe that a 
new period of depression had begun 1 . The warning 
was enough. In June a new sliding scale was devised, 
and two months later, in accordance with its terms, 
the first reduction was made 2 . 

The security of the sliding scale brought a little 
relief. The owners hastened to secure the contracts 
of which they had spoken, hoping, if not for profit, 
for the occupation which was less costly than idleness. 
The progress of the depression was a little checked, 
and the men convinced at last of its existence. In 
the autumn the union set aside 2000 from its general 
fund, as a nucleus for a new unemployment relief 

1 DM. A. Records, May 2oth, 1884. 

2 Ibid. June i6th, 1884. 


fund, and the " Relief Levy" was reimposed. During 
the remaining months of the winter almost the only 
dispute in Durham was over the attempted settle- 
ment of an agreed age at which lads should com- 
mence to hew. In the past it had been eighteen, but 
with widespread unemployment and a mysterious 
decrease in the supply of putters it had crept up to 
twenty-one. There were several evils resulting from 
this change. The lads became more unmanageable. 
The older ones, convinced that they were fit to hew, 
made incessant complaint, if indeed by steady in- 
discipline they did not attempt to obtain promotion. 
Putters, who for a time had been allowed to hew, 
continued to descend with the fore-shift, not two 
hours later as was the general custom. It was a 
dangerous increase in the already excessive length of 
the putters' day. And an intermediate class came into 
existence, "Hewing Putters," lads who hewed, but 
who ranked as putters, for they did such putting as 
was required. They worked the full putters' day, ten 
hours, a dangerous infringement of the hewers' 
traditional short shift. They received neither house 
nor coals, a distinct breach of the wage agreement 1 . 
In the past, seasons of trade depression had always 
been, at any rate in their early stages, devoid of 
incident, though they soon provoked attacks on the 
royalty system, and in Durham demands for a revival 
of the policy of restriction. This one was unusually 
quiet. The grant of the county franchise, and the 
opening of the election campaigns of Crawford, 
1 DMA. Records, Oct. and Nov. 1884. 


Wilson, and Fenwick, completely absorbed the men's 
attention. There was some expectation that the in- 
crease in the number of miners' candidates would 
encourage them to forsake the Liberal party. That 
Burt was a convinced Liberal the men were aware, 
and they were well content that he should keep to 
his allegiance, but it was hoped that the others would 
stand more distinctly as "labour" men. They were 
disappointed. Crawford made plain explanation of 
his creed: 

It was not possible for the rich man to understand the 
poor man's needs. The working man was necessary to 
legislate for the working man. But the chasm which 
divided the rich from the poor must be bridged over, 
and the working man must do it. He must do it not by 
trenching on the interests of other classes, but by devising 
more equitable means of distribution of the wealth pro- 
duced by the newer and easier methods 1 . 

He was to be no root-and-branch reformer of existing 
evils, but a watchman to prevent the growth of 
other and worse evils in the future. 

The peace was not unbroken ; such quiet has never 
been attained. In 1885 there was a short, successful, 
strike at Tudhoe, because one man had begun to hew 
eight hours instead of the customary seven 2 . In June 
a series of strikes began in the Bolkow Vaughan 
collieries 3 . Their causes were paltry, in the main they 
were putters' disputes begun in a moment of irrita- 
tion. But when several of the strikers were success- 

1 D.M.A. Records. National Union Circular, "Working 
Men's Representatives," 1884. 

2 Durham Chronicle, March 27th, 1885. 

3 Ibid. June igth, 26th, 1885. 


fully sued for damages the men held a meeting of 
protest at the attitude of the agents. The officials 
had time enough to spend over parliamentary elec- 
tions, but little, said the men, for matters which 
came within their union duties. Yet the whole county 
had been lately given a plain lesson in the benefit 
of union. The Thornley colliery, seat of old discontent, 
was laid in, and the company which owned it declared 
bankrupt. To secure the payment of such wages as 
were due to the men the union made legal seizure 
of the colliery property. Only prompt and decisive 
action saved the men the loss of their fortnight's wage. 
Next year there was the same tale of formal wage 
reduction under the terms of the sliding scale, of 
growing unemployment, and of universal short time. 
The owners resorted to every device by which in the 
past they had evaded the general agreements. Men 
were warned that at the county rate the pit in which 
they worked would be compelled to close. It was 
hinted that a local reduction alone could avert in- 
evitable unemployment. As a rule an illegal bargain 
was struck between the men and the manager, and 
the pit worked on. At South Medomsley, where for 
fifty years there had been no dispute, a change in 
the management was followed by a strike 1 . The new 
manager asked the men for a local reduction. Either 
his demand was too blunt or he had not yet won the 
men's confidence, for they struck at once. Already, 
they declared, they were earning much less than the 
county average, yet it had been hinted to them that 

1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. 8th, 1886. 


if they would leave the union they would be assured 
of an eleven-day fortnight. There were the inevitable 
evictions. Soon there was the first charge of intimida- 
tion, defeated, not as in the old days by appeal to 
the rights of man, but by legal argument. But in- 
timidation there must have been, for almost at once 
the black-legs promised to leave. A snowball attack 
on the few men who remained at work developed into 
a dangerous riot, but the only two men against whom 
violence could be proved were strangers, one a 
hawker, the other a smith. There was more trouble 
at the evictions, for the men obeyed the orders of 
the union " to stay in the houses till they were pitched 
out." In April the front of the manager's house was 
damaged by a mysterious explosion, for which the 
men indignantly denied responsibility. The strike 
failed, as that at Ushaw Moor had failed. The pit 
was filled with black-legs, and no general protest could 
be made, for South Medomsley was not under the 
control of the owners' association 1 . 

At Castle Eden the men struck, to enforce a local 
wage demand. Ninety of them were successfully sued 
for damages, and the strike was quietly settled 2 . At 
Hebburn a half-hearted attempt was made to resist 
a reduction, but in most collieries the wages con- 
tinued to fall, though the universal evasion of the 
county agreement did not in any way check the 
growth of the depression 3 . Again unemployment re- 
lief became a serious burden on the union funds. 

1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. to July, 1886. 

2 Ibid. Sept. ist, 1886. * Ibid. Dec. 3ist, 1886. 


Exhortations to economy were succeeded by plain 
warning that nothing but a reduction in the scale 
of benefits could save the union from financial ruin. 
Yet at no time, as the agents deplored, had there 
been so many fraudulent appeals for help, or so little 
reluctance to seek union support. In 1887 two dis- 
putes began which still further depleted the funds 1 . 
Seaham, apparently, was resolved on a strike. Its 
first excuse was the friction which arose out of a 
refusal to "ride" with the non-unionists. Next, it 
refused to agree to the introduction of a night-shift, 
suggested as the only relief possible where wages could 
no longer be reduced. And along the Tyneside, at 
Usworth and the Felling, a dispute which threatened 
to involve 1700 men was averted only to break out 
again in the autumn. 

It was not remarkable that there should be unrest 
in the north of Durham, for over the river a county 
strike was in progress. Smaller numbers and superior 
organisation, perhaps, too, the higher character of 
the men and the more dominant personality of their 
leader Burt, had kept Northumberland quiet, though 
its wage reductions were as frequent, and its unem- 
ployment the worse, for it was less stoutly fought by 
a union more careful of its funds. Yet there was wide- 
felt dissatisfaction. The dispute over the refusal of 
the rent allowance was still remembered. The outcry 
against royalties was as loud. In fact at one time the 
men had joined in suggesting that if prices dominated 
wages, so they should control rents, and that land- 
1 Durham Chronicle, Jan. i4th, 28th, 1887, and some weeks. 


lords should share with the men in the benefits of 
a sliding scale. When, in the winter of 1886, the 
sliding scale agreement expired and the owners de- 
manded a reduction of 15 per cent, in the basis wage 
as an essential condition to its revival, the men 
refused the demand, and by a large majority gave 
warning of their intention to strike 1 . The owners 
modified their demand, they would be content with 
a reduction of 12 J per cent.; but this offer too was 
refused, and in the last week of January the notices 
were allowed to expire 2 . The men said that it was 
no strike but a lock-out, a refusal of the owners to 
employ them at the old terms. Morley, the member 
of Parliament for Newcastle, interposed to suggest 
that a reduction of 10 per cent, would be acceptable 
to both parties. He was told that his interference 
was both unasked and unwelcome 3 . The union officials, 
who knew that the depression was certain to increase, 
had little hope of staving off the reduction, and in 
speech and circular continued to oppose the strike 
policy. Irregular meetings among the men warned 
them of the danger of over-insistence. The memory 
still remained of the secession during the last county 
strike. It was useless preaching submission to men 
who were united in a demand for an advance of 
20 per cent. "They had been getting a little bacon 
for breakfast, and the children got the fat. With the 
proposed reduction there would be neither bacon, 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, Jan. 1887. 

2 Ibid. Jan. 27th, 1887. 

3 Ibid. Feb. 5th, 1887. 


nor fat " 1 . Here was no intention of surrender, because 
of a fall in the market price. 

In February the whole of the officers of the union 
resigned : 

Even if. our self-respect allowed us to accept the un- 
merited censure which is being heaped upon us, we would 
still be powerless to help you without the assurance of 
your confidence. . . .Mistakes we have made, as we are 
men. But we have nothing to apologise for 2 . 

The step, a last desperate defence against internal 
dissension, brought the malcontents to their senses. 
If they disliked the policy of Burt and his friends they 
had no alternative policy to suggest, and no leaders 
to maintain the formless opposition. As the funds 
of the association sank, it was compelled to issue a 
general appeal for assistance. It had recently spent 
nearly 10,000 on unemployment relief, during the 
depressions inevitable in an export trade subject to 
violent fluctuation. But the general poverty of the 
Tyne valley weighed as heavily on the shipyards as 
on the coal mines. There was no local union able to 
give the pitmen much relief, and it has always been 
hard for the miner to convince his immediate neigh- 
bours of his poverty, a fact too often forgotten in 
assertion of under-pay ment. Even in the union there 
were many who hinted that the funds would not have 
been so low but for the recent political extravagance. 
In vain Burt pointed out that the stories of the high 
wage of the Northumberland miners were gross exag- 

1 Durham Chronicle, Feb. nth, 1887. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Feb. 5th, 1887. 



gerations, and that in truth the average wage of the pit- 
man was less than i a week, taking the year as a whole 
together with its frequent periods of irregular work 1 . 
In six weeks the appeal produced only 903. Only from 
allied miners' unions did any substantial assistance 
come. Durham sent a heavy grant from its general 
fund and imposed a strike levy, but even neighbourly 

arity failed to raise the strike pay above 35. a week 2 . 

Pride was a good substitute for supplies, and the 
men continued to refuse in turn the offers of the 
owners, and the proposals of the agents. By the end 
of the eighth week of the strike, when the poverty of 
the men drove many from their homes, the owners 
began to change their tone. They resolved to take 
advantage of the men's apparent defeat to pursue 
the quarrel to a definite conclusion. The change was 
not unnoticed by the general public. The strike sub- 
scription rose to 5882, though there was a great 
deal of resentment at the refusal of the union to help 
in the relief of men who,, though not members, were 
taking a part in the strike. In April, though the 
delegates were in favour of negotiation, and the 
owners were offering to open the pits to all men who 
would accept the 12 J per cent, reduction, the men 
still continued on strike. The wage committee of 
the union, a permanent body which conducted the 
periodic negotiations with the owners, resigned, saying 
that its services were not required 3 . By the appoint- 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Feb. 1887. 

z DM. A. Records, Jan.. Feb., 1887. 

9 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April gth, 1887. 


ment of a new one the men shewed their desire ulti- 
mately to effect a settlement, but still they continued 
to refuse their agents' advice, and to entrust the 
negotiations to the committee they had appointed. 
Burt went from colliery to colliery telling the men 
that the reduction was inevitable, and that conces- 
sion and negotiation alone could make an end of the 
dispute. In May the men abandoned their inflexible 
attitude, entrusted the decision of the dispute to the 
new wage committee, and made no protest when it 
at once accepted the owners' terms 1 . The strike had 
lasted seventeen weeks. It had done little but waste 
the union funds. At the annual gala there could be 
found but two subjects for self-congratulation ; among 
12,000 men there had not been a single desertion and 
in seventeen weeks not a single breach of the peace 2 . 
The north as a whole seemed almost ignorant that 
a strike was in progress. 

At the gala Burt was received with the usual 
cheers, but Fynes, who year after year appeared to 
celebrate the success of the association he claimed to 
have founded, was shouted down. By his steady 
opposition to the strike he had lost all his popularity. 
His doctrine of arbitration seemed to the men an 
outworn creed. Even Fenwick found it hard to get 
a hearing, and the cries of interruption had a new 
and strange inspiration. The London dockers had 
seen in the strike an opportunity for the spread of 
their new doctrines of state ownership. At Horton 

1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, May 28th, 1887. 

2 Ibid. Aug. 6th, 1887. 




their missionaries had received an almost unanimous 
vote of support, and in other collieries they had been 
well received 1 . When the feeling caused by the strike 
died down the popularity of the new gospel died 
also, but there were some remaining to whom the 
dockers had brought a new enlightenment. More- 
over the strike had taught the men that, strong as 
their local union might be, it was powerless against 
e owners, at any rate in a falling market. It had 
ewn that adherence to the policy of their leaders 
brought reductions, and that at a time when work 
was irregular, and unemployment general. Even if 
the revolutionary proposals of the socialists found 
little support the ground was well prepared for the 
aggressive doctrines of the new general union, the 
"Miners' Federation of Great Britain." 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April i6th, 1887. 

w 16 



TEN years of failure and trade depression had 
disgusted the men of the north with their own 
efforts. Great as might be their local strength it 
seemed a puny weapon against the owners' per- 
sistence. The union leaders had come to prefer any 
course, arbitration, agreement, even simple submis- 
sion, to the risk of a strike. They were persuaded that 
demand and supply fixed the market price of coal. 
They were content by sliding scales to secure for the 
men a wage which moved up and down with that 
price. Hope of further progress seemed dead, the 
purpose of union was no longer apparent. In their 
despair the men heard of a new union, a stronger 
alliance of the scattered associations of the country, 
the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, a body with 
a new wage doctrine, and a new and aggressive policy. 
If Burt and his fellows were convinced that wages 
must follow prices in their ceaseless movement, the 
Miners' Federation demanded a wage which should 
be a standing charge on industry, a controlling factor 
in price, a wage sufficient for all the normal needs 
of life. If local strikes had no history of success there 
was still hope that a general strike might be more 
fortunate. In both Northumberland and Durham 
the men began to hope for alliance with this new 


In 1887 a general miners' conference, held at 
Edinburgh, took a step which for twenty years was 
to stand in the way of a national miners' alliance. 
It resolved to begin a campaign for a legal eight-hour 
day 1 . The decision meant the isolation of the northern 
coal-field from every other mining district. In both 
Northumberland and Durham an eight-hour day 
seemed impossible. In no way could it accord with 
the local system of work, with its minute subdivision 
of labour and its multiplication of shifts. There were 
in most pits two sets of hewers. The fore-shift des- 
cended the shaft at 4 a.m., and worked until it was 
relieved; the back-shift went down at 10 a.m., worked 
until about 4 p.m., and emerged at the pit-head half 
an hour later. The average day of the hewer, from 
bank to bank, was roughly seven hours, and of that 
some five and a half hours were spent in coal getting. 
The rest of the time was spent in the descent of the 
shaft, and in the long walk to the face 2 . 

To every hundred hewers there were, in 1890, some 
thirty-two shifters and stone-men, men who went 
down the pit in the evening to drive new roads, and 
repair the airways and to make ready the pit for the 
work of the next day. They too were within the limits 
imposed by the new bill, for they worked a shift 
of eight hours. It was the third class of workers, the 
"off-hand" men and boys, whom the bill promised 
to benefit. They were engaged for the most part in 
the transport of coal. They went down two hours 

1 J. Wilson, Hist. ofD.M.A. p. 199. 

a DMA. Records, Nov. 1887 March 1888. 

1 6 2 


later than did the fore-shift, and ascended immediately 
before the back-shift, being below some ten or eleven 
hours. There were about ninety-four of this third 
class employed to every hundred hewers. If they 
were given an eight-hour day, said both owners and 
men, the continuance of the two-shift system would 
be impossible. There were three suggested plans. The 
pits might work but one shift, of eight hours. It was 
plain that this course would diminish the output, 
throw many men out of employment, add enormously 
to the cost of production by leaving the machinery 
idle two-thirds of the day, and, as a last and most 
disastrous consequence, increase the length of the 
hewers' day. Two equal shifts might be worked, of 
eight hours each. That would increase the output, 
throw more coal on a market already subject to 
periodic glut, and add to the hewers' day. Moreover, 
so great was the shortage of boys that it was feared 
the staff for this second shift could not be provided. 
The third plan, which twenty years later was eventu- 
ally adopted, was that three shifts of hewers should 
descend in turn, and be waited on by two shifts of 
boys. Though this plan overcame the two great diffi- 
culties, lack of pit room, and shortage of boy labour, 
though it kept the disproportion between off-hand 
men and coal getters, and barely increased the length 
of the hewers' day, it was open to grave objection. 
It made necessary an increase in the hours of coal- 
drawing, and as a result allowed of an increase in 
output, a notable defect in the eyes of men who 
were still apt to blame over-production for every fall 


in wage. And by introducing a shift which worked 
in the evening, it made necessary a change in the 
social and domestic life of an intensely conservative 
class. The eight-hour day has been in no sense a boon 
to the pit-wives, for at no time can the oven stand 
idle. Meals must begin at two in the morning. They 
not well ended until midnight. 

Even this solution did not remove from the north 
the reproach that the boys work longer than do the 
men, nor did it end entirely the contrast between the 
hewer, with his short day and high wage, and the 
unskilled labourer, working steadily, if more slowly, 
for a longer time, yet with less reward. 

Burt and Crawford began a resolute opposition to 
the new demand. Excuse for an apparently selfish 
attitude there was plenty. Though the boys worked 
longer than did their fathers they did not work so 
hard. Many of them were boys only in name, young 
strong men in reality. It was better for them to work 
a few hours longer each day when they were young 
than on their promotion to a hewer's place to be 
compelled to an eight-hour day. Elaborate arith- 
metical proof was given of the eventual sacrifice of 
leisure the change would entail. Fear of unemploy- 
ment and increased output, conservative opposition to 
change, hatred for the name "eight hours," alarming 
in its sound to a class which had not for fifty years 
worked more than seven, were all in turn invoked. 
The old traditional doctrine for which Bryson and 
Fynes had been despised was brought from its ob- 
scurity. Union effort was better than appeal to the 


law. If the other districts would organise as well as 
Northumberland and Durham had done, the need for 
political action would disappear. That one blot on 
the northern system remained, could not be denied. 
By the machinery of gradual change and mutual 
agreement, which had perfected the two-shift system, 
and had made the northern hewer the envy of Welsh 
and Midland colliers, the hours of the boys would be 
reduced. Meantime, they were willing victims to a 
system which held out so great rewards for sacrifice 1 . 
It was this question which kept the northern pit- 
men outside the Miners' Federation. It was this fear 
of an addition to the hewers' shift which upheld 
Burt and Crawford and Wilson in their opposition 
to the minimum wage. For much as the men might 
desire it, much as they might dislike sliding scales, 
conciliation boards, and the whole machinery of com- 
promise, they could not swallow the bitter coat of 
the golden pill. Both within and without the counties 
the two questions, firmly if unnecessarily 'joined to- 
gether, of the eight-hour day and the minimum wage, 
produced endless discord. In parliament Burt and 
Wilson fought the growing host of labour members. 
At home they strove ceaselessly to conceal an endless 
war. The off-hand men were in favour of the new 
legislation, from which they alone would clearly bene- 
fit. As the pits developed they grew more nearly to 
equal the hewers in numbers and importance, espe- 
cially when the coal-cutter began to oust the pick from 
its pride of place. In some of the bigger, newer, pits 
1 DM. A. Records, Jan. 1888. 


Ashington, Wearmouth, and Harton a three-shift 
system had already been introduced. The men of 
these collieries, always foremost in union action, had 
less to lose by the change. They said that if an eight- 
hour day was the only bar to national union, the 
price to be paid for strength to fight in the battle 
for the minimum wage, it should be no longer op- 
posed. But for over twenty years the older men, the 
hewers in the two-shift pits, and the leaders who 
disliked the aggressive policy of the Miners' Federa- 
tion, formed a majority sufficient to preserve the 
independence of the two northern unions. For a 
generation Burt and Wilson stood in the way of the 
Eight Hour Act. Only when the Federation followed 
their advice, and set its own house in order, only 
when the northern coal-field lost its supremacy 
in output and practice, and the Welsh and Mid- 
land unions began to bulk larger in the public eye 
than those of the Tyne, was the bargain struck. 
Northumberland and Durham entered the Federation, 
the Eight Hour Act was passed, and two years later 
the minimum wage itself received parliamentary 

In 1887, as an immediate result of the Northumber- 
land strike, the men refused to renew the salaries of 
the members they had sent to parliament. A delegate 
meeting, convened in November, reversed the decision 
of the August ballot, saying that the vote had been 
taken when the men were enraged at their defeat 1 . 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Feb. 25th, Aug. I4th, 1888. 
Durham Chronicle, Aug. 23rd, 1887. 


But by a large majority the same meeting resolved 
to make an end of the sliding scale. In Durham the 
dissatisfaction in the Tyneside collieries, which had 
resulted in an abortive strike in the spring, broke out 
again, and a county strike was only averted by the 
payment, in a mysterious, anonymous fashion, of the 
fines of the men who were leading the disturbance. 
A second threat of trouble was silenced by agreement. 
At Rough Lea, a small colliery, seventeen men were 
dismissed. They were all old men, whose output was 
naturally on the decline. They were leading members 
of the union. The manager said they were dismissed 
for exhorting their comrades to restrict their output ; 
the men, that he had seized an excuse to rid himself 
of old and weary servants 1 . Next year the Tyneside 
collieries struck again, this time over a putters' wage 
dispute, and at Bowes and Partners' there was a 
quarrel over a matter of principle which threatened 
serious consequences. A hewer had been given per- 
mission to absent himself from work to attend a 
funeral. In his absence his brother, a putter, hewed 
his two shifts. By his action he transgressed a lodge 
rule, which forbade any man to work longer than an 
agreed maximum 2 . 

By the decision of the Edinburgh conference both 
counties were expected to present to their owners a 
list of demands, which began with the eight-hour 
day and ended with a request for a weekly holiday, 
and a general, temporary closing of the collieries as 

1 Durham Chronicle, Nov. i8th, 1887. 

2 Ibid. Feb. 24th and March 9th. 1888. 


the first step towards a reduction of output which 
was to force up the price. Burt and Crawford both 
were of opinion that the decision should be dis- 
obeyed, and in Durham the advice of the agent was 
taken 1 . But the men of Northumberland, still smarting 
with the sense of recent failure, ordered the presenta- 
tion of the whole list, with an addition, that wages 
should at once be increased 10 per cent. Without 
hesitation the owners made refusal. The bad state of 
the trade which had made necessary their recent 
demands continued unabated. By the time their 
reply was made public the Northumberland men had 
been persuaded of the folly of their action, and they 
made no protest at the simple refusal of their 
desires 2 . 

Four times in Durham the sliding scale brought a 
wage change, twice upwards, twice downwards, a 
despised ij per cent, each time. Meantime the 
"County Franchise Association," its name changed 
into the "Durham Political Union," was busy with 
local politics, sanitation, and the housing question. 
The trouble on the Tyne continued, until the Usworth 
lodge fell foul of the central power of the union, the 
executive committee. In the face of the sliding scale 
agreement the unruly lodge had made a demand for 
a local advance, and had justified its action by a 
circular issued in defiance of the rules. A short strike 
at Hetton, hastily called, gave witness of an exten- 
sion of the unrest. Its cause, concealed in the techni- 

1 DMA. Records, Jan. 1888. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Jan. 28th, 1888. 


calities of the formal excuse, was wage dissatisfac- 
tion. In June the owners replied to the long list of 
demands, the regular presentation of which had be- 
come almost a meaningless formality, with a list as 
impressive. It set forth the old grievance of lodge 
restriction, of hasty and illegal local stoppages, of 
misuse of the Joint Committee. It suggested that the 
free house and coal should be exchanged for a general 
advance in wage 1 . 

In the spring of 1889 the Durham sliding scale 
agreement expired. A new hope of prosperity was in 
the air. In Yorkshire there was talk of a general 
advance. In Northumberland the men had been 
given back the whole of the 12} per cent, they had 
lost in the strike. The hewers of Durham thought 
that the time had come to make an end of the wage 
control they so much disliked. The agents, loath to 
see the destruction of the system which they had 
devised, misunderstood the general desire. When a 
ballot was claimed the papers issued ignored the 
popular feeling. But the men were not to be entrapped 
into perpetuating the sliding scale by consenting to 
choose whether the scale was to be amended, or con- 
tinued. Every colliery called a meeting of protest. 
The sliding scale was compared to the yearly bond. 
It was a shackle on the freedom of the miner. "It 
had done no good in the past. It would do no good 
in the future." Over the Tyne, where the system had 
at last been abandoned, the wage was 14 per cent, 
above the standard of 1879. In Durham the scale 
1 DM. A. Records, 1888. 


allowed them but a beggarly 2\ per cent. 1 Even in 
the presence of the agents, and in the face of their 
formal resolutions that the sliding scale was still the 
most equitable method of wage settlement, the men 
spoke against its renewal. The agents were compelled 
to issue an amended ballot paper, and on the question 
of abolition or amendment a vote was taken which 
shewed a huge majority for abolition. In place of 
a petition for the renewal of the agreement the agents 
were ordered to make a demand for a general wage 
increase of 20 per cent. 

The owners seemed prepared to bargain. They 
offered to make an immediate advance of 5 per cent., 
and to add to it a further 5 per cent, in the autumn. 
The men rejected the offer and a strike seemed to be 
impending. In September a conference met at New- 
castle, The owners offered an immediate advance of 
10 per cent., to include the last 2\ per cent, which 
the sliding scale had granted. The agents accepted 
the offer, and by a majority of one the men gave 
their sanction to the bargain. At much the same 
time the Northumberland men asked for a 10 per 
cent, increase also. Their demand too was halved. 
Both counties were again equal in their advance 
above the basis wage of 1879. 

The wage dispute begat its usual crop of local 
strikes. At Brancepeth the "putter hewer" system 
had been developed to an excessive degree. There 
was friction already over the right to a rent allowance 

1 Durham Chronicle, March, April, May, 1889. DMA. 
Records, March, April, May, June, 1889. 


where no colliery house was available. A strike was 
called, and all the collieries of Straker and Love joined 
the strikers, as their old local federation had arranged. 
The grievances were removed, and the obnoxious 
system of infringement of the hewers' work abandoned. 
In August, at Littleburn, there was a strike over the 
dismissal of an official of the local lodge. So badly 
were the men in the wrong that Crawford felt com- 
pelled to apologise to the Coal Trade Association for 
the men's unwarranted action. The lodge seemed to 
have fallen under the control of a violent minority, 
whose drunken habits had increased the ever-present 
tendency to groundless absence. At last Patterson, 
at the time Crawford's chief assistant, persuaded the 
lodge to tender its apology and return to work. But 
one trouble was ended only to be succeeded by 
another. In October the men at Silksworth gave the 
first sign of discontent which was in the end to ripen 
into a serious dispute 1 . 

After long grumbling the men had at last formu- 
lated their demands. They presented to the owners 
a list of suggestions and a request for a wage advance 
of 15 per cent. One of the suggestions, that the wages 
of the boys were to be standardised, and a definite 
age fixed at which they should commence to hew, 
raised an issue of such importance that it could only 
be decided by a county agreement 2 . The owners were 
willing enough to discuss the wage advance, but they 
were firm in their refusal to grant it. Their inflexible 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. nth, 1889. 

2 DM. A. Records, Nov. ist, 1889. 




attitude was but fresh fuel to the discontent which 
made 1890 so troubled a year. Serious discord 
threatened at Silks worth. The recent failure of a 
scheme for restriction of output filled the whole 
county with jealous recrimination. To this turmoil 
was added the provocation of a general wage dispute, 
begun at a time when prices were rising, and the men 
lainly dissatisfied with their share of the trade 

Already, since the depression had ended, wages had 
risen 25 per cent. It was natural that the public 
should think with the owners that every further wage 
demand was exorbitant, and should be confirmed in 
its belief by the refusal of the men to submit their 
claim to enquiry. It became the turn of the coal 
trade to blame obstinate and selfish greed for the 
threatened trouble, and to throw on the men the 
responsibility for the "disastrous consequences" of 
a strike 1 . 

That the Durham coal-field was threatened with an 
outbreak of war was less due to an increase of grievance 
and discontent than to the growth of indiscipline in 
the union. For some months Crawford's health had 
been failing. In 1887 the union sent him to the south 
of France, but though he returned, apparently to 
work, he knew that he had not long to live. In 
March, 1890, within a week of the meeting of the 
executive committee to discuss the impending crisis, 
he died, at the early age of fifty-eight. He was a 
pitman, and the son. of a pitman. In his boyhood 
1 D.M.A. Records, Owners' letter. Feb. igih, 1890. 


he worked both at Hartley and Cowpen, where he 
met with an accident which was the main cause of 
his later ill-health. In the enforced idleness of con- 
valescence he gave himself an education rare among 
the pitmen of his youth. At the age of twenty-four 
he married. He was then a temperance speaker, a 
preacher in Ranter chapels, an advocate of educa- 
tional, social, and political reform. After the secession 
of 1864 he was elected secretary of the Northumber- 
land Miners' Association. A year later he handed 
over his duties to Burt, and went to a co-operative 
store at Ely the 1 . At one time he tried his fortune as 
a shopkeeper, but his business failed. In 1870 he 
was called to Durham to act as secretary to a union 
which was struggling into existence in the north-east 
of the county. 

Within two years Crawford won for this union an 
unquestioned recognition from the owners. In 1872 
he was sitting in conference with them to settle the 
wage claims of the men, and the system of yearly 
hirings, an almost insuperable obstacle to union pro- 
gress, had been for ever abandoned. Quietly, for 
seventeen years, he worked, in the face of strikes and 
trade depressions, building up a fund, educating the 
men, winning for himself and for them a very general, 
but very grudgingly given, respect. He had neither 
the intellect nor the education of Burt, nor perhaps 
the diplomatic skill of his successor, Wilson. But he 
had a fiery energy, an instinctive recognition of the 
true course of action, an intuitive grasp of affairs, 
1 Durham Chronicle, July 4th, 1890. 


which make him a more remarkable man than any 
of the other trade union heroes of the north. His 
economic ideas might be vague, and at times a little 
contradictory. He was obsessed by a fear of over- 
production, and by a partial recognition of the evil 
effects of reckless trade competition. The doctrine 
that restriction of output was the cure for most 
economic evils seemed perpetually to interrupt the 
lessons he was learning from the followers of John 
Stuart Mill. Indeed, he was of an older generation 
than the individualists of the late nineteenth century. 
Burt might become almost a doctrinaire Radical, 
might hold, as to an eternal truth, to the teachings 
of mid- Victorian economics, but Crawford was more 
influenced by the ideas of Lloyd Jones, ideas which 
had their origin in the socialism of Owen, their de- 
velopment in the aspirations of the Christian Socialists, 
their popularity from some of the pamphlet literature 
of the later Chartists. In 1886 he was elected member 
for Mid-Durham, a working-man member in the 
Liberal interest, but he found himself less suited for 
the position than most of his fellows. He voted 
steadily in divisions. He sat, and gained credit, on 
several committees, but he never made a speech in 
the House. He was never an orator, though his 
writings are full of a florid rhetoric, the relic of his 
early Methodism. 

When he died 2000 men followed him to the grave- 
side, and almost every miner in Durham came to the 
unveiling of the statue which now stands in front of their 
Trade Union Hall. It is a sufficient, though needless, 


reply to the gibes of the journalists of his early days, 
to remember that at his death Crawford left his 
widow barely sufficient to keep her from want. A grant 
from the union funds, supplemented by a generous 
donation from the owners, alone enabled her to main- 
tain and educate her family, and the esteem in which 
Crawford was held, together with the confidence 
existing at that time between owners and men, is 
shewn by the fact that the trustee of the fund was 
the secretary of the owners' association. 

Crawford's illness had been marked by a growing 
unrest in Durham. His death was the signal for a 
strike. Patterson, his successor in office, was a lesser 
man, possessed of none of Crawford's readiness to 
shoulder responsibility. He argued where Crawford 
had ordered : he consulted the men where the founder 
of the union would more wisely have presented 
them with an accomplished fact. He never rivalled 
Crawford's popularity, which, if less steady, had been 
greater even than that of Burt across the Tyne. The 
best tribute to the memory of the first secretary of 
the Durham Miners' Union is the fact that during 
the bitter strike of 1892 men joined in saying that, 
Crawford alive, the trouble would never have come. 



IN the early months of 1890 the number of local 
strikes was so excessive that the owners threatened 
to break off all relations with a body which shewed 
so little control over its members 1 . There were many 
reasons and more excuses for the unrest. The size 
of the pits had grown. There had been a general 
improvement in the method of work, and a still 
greater subdivision of labour. A new desire for 
efficiency seemed to have awakened interest in the 
host of small expenses which, taken together, made 
so large a proportion of working costs. The men's 
counter to the managerial campaign of economy was 
to demand an increased uniformity of hours through- 
out the county, and a more accurate definition of 
working customs. They wished to have the demarca- 
tion between putters and hewers made plain, and the 
system of promotion automatic. They asked for more 
holidays, and for some systematic payment for the 
long journey from the face to the shaft. But the 
main quarrel began on the introduction of a new 
practice by which the managers hoped to increase the 
output. Every hewer was expected to take an empty 
tub into his place when he went to work in the 
'morning, for in the past there had often been delay 

1 D.M.A. Records, May i5th (letter from owners, May 3rd), 

w 17 


through the late arrival of the putters. But the men 
refused to put; the older ones, indeed, said that to 
move even an empty tub was beyond their powers. 
Last of all there was a general desire for a new 
agreement on the old disputed question, the hours of 
coal-drawing. But discussion was interrupted by a 
sudden strike at Monk Wearmouth 1 . At first the 
strike received no encouragement from the union; 
its root cause was the very subject which the agents 
were debating with the owners. But the men chose 
to think that Monk Wearmouth was fighting for the 
common cause, and they authorised the grant of 
strike pay. In this deep, submarine colliery the 
distance from the shaft to the face was so great that 
the fore-shift refused to wait for the coming of their 
relief, and ceased work at a time agreed on in a 
lodge meeting. Their action, said the owners, "was a 
distinct departure from an old-established colliery 
custom, that of changing at the face" 2 . They refused 
to proceed further with the general discussion on 
hours until the Monk Wearmouth men returned to 
work. The Joint Committee ceased to sit. For the 
first time since 1872 there was a complete cessation 
of correspondence between the union and the owners. 
An agitated appeal from the agents warned the men 
that continued obstinacy would widen still further 
the breach and that the unity of purpose between 
owners and men, which it had been Crawford's life's 
work to create, would be entirely destroyed. 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. 3rd, 1890. 

2 DM. A. Records, July I5th, 1890. 


Patterson had already issued one circular, to ask 
the men for support in the original dispute about the 
length of the working day. It was shorter than the 
circulars Crawford used to write 1 . It made no attempt 
to influence the judgment of the men. Perhaps his 
attitude, that of the plain statement of a disputed 
case, was strictly in accordance with the rules and 
the democratic ideals of the union. Perhaps it was 
an .agent's duty to ascertain, and later, to obey, the 
desires of the men. But in an association full of ill- 
informed, ignorant men it would have been a higher 
conception of duty to have followed Crawford's 
example, and to have striven to persuade the men 
to peace. Put simply the general question which was 
before the county was this. If a two-shift pit drew 
coal ten hours, must a three-shift pit "draw" fifteen, 
as the men said, or twenty, as the owners desired? 
The men decided to support their claim by a strike 2 . 
By good fortune they were at last persuaded that 
the misunderstanding was in part due to the mixing 
of too many demands in one. Though they refused 
to settle any question of hours while the strike at 
Wearmouth continued, the owners said they would 
be willing to separate the question of coal-drawing 
from that of the length of the hewer's shift. Several 
special councils of the union were assembled, proof 
positive that the agents lacked the firm decision of 
the late secretary, and in September a qualified agree- 
ment was reached on one point. Two-shift pits were 

1 DM. A. Records, 1890. 

2 J. Wilson, Hist. ofD.M^i. p. 217. 



to "draw" ten hours 1 . Other outstanding disputes 
were to be settled by the Joint Committee. 

An "urgency" committee had for some time been 
investigating the claims of the Monk Wearmouth 
hewers. It found that the difference between the 
owners' system and that devised by the men was 
one of but two minutes a day. The county ordered 
the strikers back to work. Soon further enquiry 
proved the justice of the owners' claim in the second 
matter and it was agreed that three-shift pits should 
be allowed to draw coal for twenty hours 2 . This dis- 
pute settled the men began to look for a fresh cause 
of quarrel. In October, 1890, they asked for a wage 
increase of 20 per cent., accompanying their demand 
by a plain hint that if the selling price did not allow 
of the increase the price could be raised 3 . In North- 
umberland the owners had made a small concession 
of 1 1 per cent. 4 The Durham owners offered their 
men 5 per cent., and without remark it was ac- 
cepted 5 . Neither on hours, nor on wages, had the 
malcontents been able to arouse the county en- 

But trouble they were determined to cause. In 
November, 1890, a general meeting of the Miners' 
Federation of Great Britain had been called. As 
usual, the main item on the programme was a motion 
desiring the adoption of the minimum wage, and 

1 Durham Chronicle, Sept. I2th, 1890, and Aug. 8th, 22nd, 
Sept. 5th. 2 DM. A. Records, Oct. 3oth, Nov. 2ist, 1890. 

8 Durham Chronicle, Oct. lyth, 1890. 
4 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, June 2ist, 1890. 
* Durham Chronicle, Nov. 2ist, 1890. 


the eight-hour day. The Northumberland Miners' 
Association ignored the summons, saying that where 
there was so great a divergence of interest and opinion 
there could be no agreement. The Durham men were 
less logical in their attitude, but they too could have 
no sympathy with the proposals of the Midland 
miners. It was obvious that the demands of the 
Miners' Federation, persisted in, would provoke a 
general strike. It was equally obvious that the 
officials of the north-country unions were steadily 
opposed to the use of the strike as an offensive weapon. 
Yet within their unions there were many men of a 
less pacific turn of mind, and not a few ambitious 
men who hoped by agitation to climb to power, while 
the new doctrines of the more militant socialists found 
many adherents in the north. Internal strife was 
bound to come. It wanted only the occasion. 

The trouble began at Silksworth. Before 1884 none 
of the deputies of this colliery had been members of 
the miners' union, but about that time the majority 
sought and obtained admission. The men professed 
to believe that the few who still remained outside 
their association enjoyed special favour, and that on 
appointment new deputies were made to forswear 
union for ever. In November, 1890, the hewers, 
saying that they would work no longer under black- 
leg deputies, struck 1 . The black-legs joined the union. 
On the face of it the action of the men was a distinct 
breach of the tacit agreement, which had existed 
since the deputies' arbitration in 1887, that neither 

1 Durham Chronicle, Nov. 2ist, 1890, and for some months. 


side should compel a deputy to choose between union 
and isolation. They made defence that the manager 
had long ago broken the compact, though in a less 
open manner. He had given the black-leg deputies 
more of the extra work, and necessarily of the extra 
pay, which, however, it seemed that the lodge had 
refused to allow its members to accept! That the 
men had no very good case is doubly proved, first 
by the fact that the union refused them strike pay, 
next by the persistent refusal of the enginemen, all 
through the strike, to cease work. They would cease 
at once, said they, if the dispute was decided in the 
men's favour by the Federation Board, the com- 
mittee of the unions of all the trades in the collieries. 
Had the miners been certain of the justice of their 
case they could easily have obtained the support of 
the Federation. As it was, they dared not submit it 
to the judgment even of so partial a tribunal as a 
body of fellow-unionists 1 ! 

Lord Londonderry, the owner of the colliery, was 
ready to end the quarrel, but the owners' association 
elected to treat the strike as a dispute about a matter 
of principle 2 . Eviction notices were served, but the 
evictions were delayed until the assembly of a special 
council of the men's association. But the council was 
swayed more by the threat to evict than by the 
courtesy of the suspension of action. It decided to 
reverse the policy of the agents, and to support the 
strikers. It even made threats that if the evictions 

1 DM. A. Records, Dec. 8th, 1890. 

2 Ibid. Feb. loth, 1891. 



were completed, a general county strike would begin. 
The owners were not to be turned from their purpose 
by such a threat. In February the first of the men 
were evicted from their homes. Lord Londonderry 
tried to enlist public sympathy by a statement of his 
unfortunate dilemma. He was willing to end the 
strike, but he was bound by his engagement to the 
owners' association. He did not wish to evict the 
men, but the houses in which they were living were 
not his own, they were hired from a contractor. He 
was actually paying rent for the "free" houses in 
which the strikers were living. A simple solution of 
such a problem would have been the offer of a guarantee 
by the strikers to pay the rent during the continuance 
of the strike. It would have been an additional burden 
on the funds of the union, but it would have delayed 
the evictions, the justice of which in the circumstances 
it is hard to deny. But if the policy of the union 
leaders was to make the best of the existing order 
of society, their reply was not in strict accord with 
their intentions. A strike has always had a habit 
of exposing root differences of theory, which are 
smoothed over in argued agreements. The reply was 
that as long as no other men were at hand to occupy 
the houses, and the strikers had no other hope of 
shelter, eviction would be resisted. A contrast was 
drawn between the situation of the two parties to the 
dispute, the outcast men, and the lord who sat, "in 
the noble halls of Wynyard, which the labour of our 
forefathers helped to build, and which our labour 
keeps going." 


There were scenes of excitement at the evictions 
not surpassed since the days of the first union. The 
Salvation Army, which had absorbed the enthusiasm 
of men who a generation before had filled the Ranter 
pulpits, tried to entice the candymen away. The 
women strewed the furniture with pepper, their 
husbands barred the doors, and in the empty houses 
boxes, thickly coated with tar, were placed as formal 
furniture to be removed. Despite the presence of 
both of the miners' members, Johnson and Wilson, 
an attack was made on the houses of the black-leg 
deputies. The women exhorted the men to arm them- 
selves with their pick-shafts. Showers of stones flew 
in all directions. It was said that more than one 
pistol shot was heard. At last the mob, admittedly 
composed for the most part of idlers from Sunder- 
land, became so violent that the police were com- 
pelled to charge, and in the riot which followed some 
thirty persons were injured. 

Towards the end of March, immediately before the 
commencement of a second series of evictions, negotia- 
tions were resumed. The council of the union ordered 
the men back to work. The owners promised to make 
no more attempts to influence deputies in their de- 
cision to join the union. They promised further to 
advise the deserters to pay the arrears of subscription 
which the union said had become due. They recorded 
their protest that their promise had been made out 
of a desire for peace. They^ had, they said, been guilty 
of none of the malpractice from which they were now 
required to abstain. 


In his history of the Durham Miners' Association 
John Wilson, who did his utmost to maintain order 
during the evictions, claims that the men won a 
victory. It was a very insignificant one. No strike 
has produced a bigger crop of legal actions. Police- 
men were charged with assault and perjury, and sued 
for damages. The member of parliament for Sunder- 
land brought an action against the police super- 
intendent, who had taken him into custody during 
the riot. In reply, a partisan local bench committed 
him to prison, to await his trial for perjury. But one 
by one the charges were withdrawn for want of 
evidence, or dismissed as devoid of all foundation. 
Even the committal of the irate member of parlia- 
ment was quashed by a court of appeal. 

A strike at Hetton, where 2000 men lay idle over 
the refusal of the shifts to relieve each other at the 
face, was patched up in a manner hardly more satis- 
factory. At Esh the owners closed a pit in protest 
against a lodge attempt at restriction. Never before, 
as an angry union circular remarked, had there been 
so many unconstitutional strikes. In one day sixteen 
pits had been laid idle, and only one of them had 
troubled to inform the agents of its action 1 . Local 
lodges had devised a method of defeating the rule 
which deprived them of strike pay for informal hasty 
action. They struck, and at the conclusion of the 
dispute they obtained from the council a grant in 
relief of their urgent wants. Meantime the Joint 
Committee was overwhelmed with complaints that 
1 DM. A. Records, March 6th, 1891. 


the men were leaving work before the end of the shift, 
or were refusing to await the arrival of their relief. 

The protest of the executive brought a small im- 
provement. There was an end for a time of the cause- 
less disputes. But it seemed that the men everywhere 
were anxious for a strike and in June the men of 
Murton found a good excuse 1 . A deputy who had 
worked for thirty years at the colliery, two-thirds of 
the time as an under-official, was dismissed. There 
had been an accident for which he was plainly to 
blame. Either he had removed timber, or, as was 
more likely, he had allowed some hewer to remove 
it and had failed to report him for his rashness. An 
accident revealed his fault. The manager said that 
he was dismissed for inability to perform his duties. 
The men replied, fairly enough, that after twenty- 
one years it was a little late to make discovery of 
inefficiency. In truth it seemed that the man's crime 
was that of being found out in a common enough 
omission. The manager pleaded that the inspector of 
mines would not sanction the further employment of 
the offender, except in work of less responsibility. 
He offered to find him employment, but he would 
not re-instate him as a deputy. The men emphatically 
refused the offer. The executive committee of the 
union refused to allow the Murton men strike pay. 
By a large majority the council reversed their decision. 
In August the owners' association again threatened 
to break off relations with the union, unless it made 
an immediate end of the strike. There was more than 
1 Durham Chronicle, June 26th, 1891. 


one broad hint that the man's neglect of duty had 
been caused by his fear of lodge censure, or at any 
rate of personal unpopularity for a display of zeal in 
his duty. The executive fell back on their last defence. 
The trustees of the union funds refused to sanction 
the payment of strike allowance, saying that not 
ven a council could authorise a breach of rule 1 . 
Legal opinion was on their side, and at last the men 
were persuaded that their attitude was entirely in- 
defensible. They went back to work, and the dis- 
missed deputy was found other, less responsible, 

In Northumberland, where 50 had for several 
years been the average expense of the union on labour 
disputes, 1000 was spent in this year on a single 
strike. The cause of the trouble was the vexed ques- 
tion of house rent. It has taken many years of dispute 
to decide which classes of men are entitled to the 
rent allowance, and the free house. This strike was 
to settle the justice of the claim of the unmarried man 
on whom a family depended for support to be treated 
as a householder. The owners contended that if he 
were given rent allowance it was by charity, not of 
compulsion. Meantime the question of the hours of 
coal-drawing was troubling the northern county as 
much as Durham. A ten-hour day had lately been 
secured for all boys under sixteen years of age. The 
agreement was found very difficult to enforce, for it 
seemed impossible to work a shift of ten hours in a 
pit which as a whole worked ten and a half or eleven 
1 DMA. Records, Sept. ist, 1891. 



hours. The only way to shorten the day of the boys 
seemed to be to reduce the hours of the pit. The 
owners seemed little inclined so to interfere with their 
output. Yet to save Burt's face, and to enable him 
to continue the opposition to the eight-hour day, 
it seemed necessary to take some step towards the 
promised improvement of the lot of the boys. Shorter 
hours they would eventually get by union action, 
said Burt. He was to find his promise almost im- 
possible of fulfilment. 



THOUGH in the early months of 1891 the Durham 
men obtained a wage advance of ij per cent., it 
was the last increase they were to receive under the 
terms of the sliding scale. Indeed, a trade depression 
soon began, which threatened to rob them of all 
their recent gains. In April the owners asked for a 
reduction of 3f per cent. 1 They warned the men that 
further reduction could not long be resisted, for the 
price of both coke and coal was plainly about to 
decline. But the men refused the request. They were 
misled by a sudden return of prosperity to Northum- 
berland, whose export trade had been revived by a 
strike in the French collieries. They forgot that they 
themselves were dependent on home prosperity, and 
at a conference in July they again refused the owners' 
demand. Indeed, they were so little convinced of the 
truth of the repeated warnings of a depression that 
they asked for a wage increase. As a result the owners 
withdrew their demands, and proceeded to prepare 
an exhaustive estimate of the prices at which it was 
likely that their future contracts would be made. It 
was a hint of their intentions to submit their claim 
to arbitration 2 . 

In November they made a definite demand for a 

1 DM. A. Records, Owners' letter, April 25th, 1891. 
8 Ibid. July yth, 1891, Owners' resolution. 


wage reduction of 10 per cent. 1 It was supported by 
a well-reasoned account of the condition of the coal 
trade. At the beginning of the year, said the owners, 
they had made concessions amounting in all to 5 per 
cent, on the basis wage. They had been encouraged 
in their action by a hope of a further rise in the price, 
but their hope had been so far unfounded that in the 
end the movement of prices would rather have been 
warrant for a wage reduction than for an advance. 
Put simply their argument was that as the price of 
coal stood but 23! per cent, above that of 1879, the 
year generally taken as the norm, and as wages were 
some 35 per cent, above that standard, the time had 
come for a reduction. The men were slow in making 
reply. At a second meeting, in January, 1892, the 
owners again stated their terms. The miners could 
choose one of three courses. They could accept an 
immediate reduction of 10 per cent. They could sub- 
mit the claim to arbitration. They could make a plain 
statement of the amount of the reduction they 
deemed adequate 2 . By an overwhelming majority the 
men declared that not one of the courses was ac- 

In the second week of February the owners gave 
notice that further delay was impossible. The men's 
reply left them no option but to give the customary 
fourteen days' warning of their intention to terminate 
the contracts of service. They made one concession. 
The issue of the notice was postponed for twelve days, 

1 D.M.A. Records, Nov. 27th, 1891, Conference. 

2 Ibid. Jan. i4th, 1892, Conference. Owners' demands. 


in the hope that some settlement could be devised 
"which would avoid the severe loss... not only to 
the miners themselves . . . but to the large . . . popula- 
tion depending on the Coal Trade" 1 . 

Negotiations, hastened in their progress by the 
threat of impending strike, brought a slight altera- 
tion in the owners' demands. They declared them- 
selves willing to accept an immediate, though not 
final, reduction of 7! per cent., or an immediate 
reduction of 5 per cent., to be followed by a further 
reduction of 5 per cent, some two months later 2 . The 
men proceeded to take a ballot to make their choice 
between the two offers but the owners refused to 
suspend the issue of the notices. They acknowledged 
the warning of the taking of the ballot by a polite 
expression of hope that it would result in a decision 
favourable to peace 3 . On the eve of the issue of the 
notices the Federation Board, the executive com- 
mittee of the alliance of the unions of cokemen, 
mechanics, enginemen, and miners, asked that every 
member of the four unions should be served with a 
warning. The owners would not listen to the request. 
They wished those men to be kept at work whose 
services "were considered necessary for the purpose 

1 D.M.A. Records, Feb. I5th, 1892, Owners' formal warning 
of notice. 

2 Ibid. Feb. 2oth, 1892, Owners' final terms. 

8 Ibid. Feb. 25th, 1892, Acknowledgment of taking of ballot: 

Feb. Ballot Second Ballot 

Accept 10 % 605 Accept 7^% 926 

Arbitrate 2,050 Accept 5 % and 5 % 1,153 

Negotiate 7,102 Negotiate 12,956 

Strike 41,887 Strike 40,468 


of maintaining the mines in a condition of safety, 
by drainage and ventilation." In the notice which 
they issued neither deputies nor enginemen were 

By a majority slightly smaller than that of the 
month before the men refused the amended offer. 
Their attitude was simple. They would submit to no 
reduction. Meantime both the deputies and the 
enginemen who were members of the Durham Federa- 
tion gave in their notices, and on March I2th, 1892, 
all work in the Durham collieries ceased. 

It is difficult to question the correctness of the 
owners' attitude, and the men wisely made no reply 
to the explanation of the causes of the strike which 
their opponents at once issued. It was a careful and 
very reserved statement of matters of fact. In 
December 1890, coal prices had reached their maxi- 
mum. Since then, by mistake, an advance of 5 per 
cent, had been made in the wage, accompanied by a 
slight reduction of hours. Meantime the price of coal 
had so far fallen that a wage reduction was un- 
avoidable, yet 

the men employed at the collieries in the county of 
Durham have refused all the proposals made by the 
employers . . . they have declined to authorise their own 
representatives to negotiate . . . they have refused to sub- 
mit the question to arbitration.. . .A great industry has 
been paralysed, and untold sufferings are being inflicted 
not only upon the families of the men themselves, but 
also upon the vast industries of the North of England. 

. . . the foregoing statement will prove that the em- 
ployers have used every endeavour in their power to 



avert this catastrophe . . . that they have shewn every 
willingness to treat with the men and to prove to them 
the justification of the demands. . .and finally that they 
have shewn great patience in the way they have preferred 
their claims 1 . 

There is no doubt that the officials of the union 
were not anxious to carry the dispute to a conclusion, 
though in a circular they admitted that "no class 
of men were overpaid for their work, ...and that 
relief should come from other sources than the work- 
men's pockets." They advised the men to give them 
full power to negotiate. " No trades union," said they, 
"however powerful, however strong, can resist a 
reduction in a falling market when the fall is clearly 
proved" 2 . Their persuasions were of no avail. Two 
or three years' indiscipline had sapped the founda- 
tions of the agents' authority. As yet no new leader 
had risen, to dragoon the men in the manner of 
Crawford. Patterson's policy of submission to the 
general will made certain that the strike would con- 
tinue. If the hewers had lost their faith in their old 
remedy of restriction, they had abandoned it for 
another as fallacious. Their united strength was to 
force upon the owners a wage which was to be an 
essential element in the cost of production, which 
indeed was to govern the selling price. However little 
the strikers may have understood it, they were making 
a claim for a living wage. 

1 Owners' public letter, March I4th, 1892 (issued to the 

2 DMA. Records, March 2ist, 1892. 

w 18 


They were to find that they had made one mistake, 
even if they were right in their economic doctrine. 
They had anticipated a speedy triumph, else they 
would not have withdrawn the enginemen. Perhaps 
for the moment the men had lost sight of everything 
in their desire to make the strike as costly as possible 
for the owners. Months later there was no man who 
was not aware how far the foolish completeness of 
the strike had resulted in his own loss. As the water 
rose in the workings and the timbers of the roads 
began to decay for want of repair it became plain 
that every day of delay condemned hundreds of 
hewers to prolonged idleness until such time as the 
destruction could be made good. 

A month passed quietly. Then, in a further letter 
to the newspapers, the owners stated their case again. 
They had been compelled to make an unusually 
definite demand by the temporising policy of the 
men. They had issued the notices in the hope that 
decided action would persuade the men to "recognise 
the necessity of the position, and come to terms." 
Between the month of June, 1889, and that of Sep- 
tember, 1890, the pit-head price of coal had risen from 
45. 10-47^. a ton to 75. 5-62^. In that time, as a result 
of peaceful agreement, wages had advanced 30 per 
cent. Since then the price of coal had fallen is. 2-31^. 
a ton. If then the owners had consented to bargain, 
and to increase the wage, now it had become the 
duty of the men to submit to a reduction. It might be 

true that the men now repudiate the principle that wage 
should be governed by the selling price of coal, but it 


must be observed that they claimed and obtained ad- 
vances on the ground of advances of price, and the owners 
apply the same reasoning to a falling market 1 . 

This second letter, which concluded with a regret 
that "circumstances point to a deepening depression 
of trade, rather than to any speedy improvement," 
was again little more than a simple statement of 
fact. If it gave plain warning that "on the resump- 
tion of work it will be impossible to employ all the 
persons who were previously engaged," the reason 
was simply the increasing unfitness of the mines. The 
charge was true that the men had carried their 
refusal to work to a foolish extremity of petty 
stupidity. They refused the owners' suggestion to 
allow coal to be hewed in small quantities for the 
sick, or for fuel for the engines which pumped up the 
household water supplies. Such men as dared to work 
and they worked with no thought of production, 
merely of mine maintenance were followed to the 
pits by crowds of hooting women. In several places, 
notably at Castle Eden, the demonstration ended in 
assaults. It almost seemed that it was lack of op- 
portunity which accounted for the general absence of 
violence. There were few victims on whom the 
strikers could vent their spite. The temper of the men 
is shewn by the savage ferocity of the attacks on the 
reporters of the Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle. In this 
strike, for the first time, the men's old champion was 
against them. It had tried to persuade them to peace. 
It had warned them that "if they succeeded in a 

1 Owners' second public letter, April 25th, 1892. 

1 8 2 


strike, with both a falling market and public opinion 
against them, they would do what no union had ever 
before succeeded in doing" 1 . It had condemned the 
folly of the withdrawal of the enginemen, and the 
lack of fairness and reason in the repeated refusal of 
every invitation to bargain. Perhaps its greatest 
crime was its boldness in comparing Crawford's in- 
dependence with the timidity of his successors, who 
feared to oppose the men even in their better interests. 
The men this time made reply, but their case was 
too poor to deserve respect, much less to carry con- 
viction. "We agreed to work, and to withdraw the 
claim and counter claim," said the letter, "in order 
to keep the good feeling existing between the two 
associations." In some matters it was neither strictly 
accurate nor fair. To charge the owners with pro- 
voking rebellion by issuing notices during the taking 
of a ballot was foolish, for the negotiations had 
spread over ten months, and had been definite and 
continuous for three. The crux of the dispute was 
the statement that it was 

not true that the men repudiate the principle that wages 
should be governed by the selling price of coal, but they 
do claim to have some voice as to what that price should 
be, and their wage should not be subject to the caprice 
of contractors and speculators. 

We say that the public generally, and those who know 
the laborious toil of the miner. . .will not object to 
paying a price for coal sufficient to maintain wages at 
their present point 2 . 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April, 1892. 

2 Men's public letter, in reply, April yth, 1892. 


In other words the men were striking to maintain 
their existing wage, whatever the state of trade might 
be. They were resolved on upholding their recent 
standard of life, as the minimum which they could 
endure. One assertion was made which supported 
their claim; that if by the last agreement the wage 
should fall, under an older one the price of coal would 
have justified a wage almost at its recent level. But 
the arguments used by the men were in truth trifling. 
The strike was a definite attempt to resist a fall in 
the wage. It took little count of the state of trade, 
or the precedent of old agreement. Its solution was 
not to be persuasion, but force. Already it had lasted 
long enough to discredit the men's estimate of the 
endurance of the owners, and of their own fighting 
strength. They began to think of agreement. 

On April 25th the Federation Board met the owners 
again, and the strike entered on its second and final 
stage. Public sympathy began to pass from the 
owners' side to that of the plainly defeated men. For 
the terms on which the owners were prepared to re- 
open the pits included a demand that the men should 
submit to a gross wage-reduction of 10 per cent. The 
original demand had been for a reduction of 10 per 
cent., calculated on the standard wage. The new de- 
mand, put in a form which the men could most easily 
understand, was for a reduction of 13^ per cent. In 
addition it was proposed that a joint wage board, 
empowered to decide all future alterations, should 
take the place of the sliding scale 1 . 

1 April 25th, 1892, Conference. Owners' resolutions. 


The agents of the union had gone to the meeting 
with no power of negotiation. Indeed, their only 
authority for attendance was that lack of interest in 
the weekly ballot caused the majority for further war 
to sink below the necessary "two-thirds of the total 
membership of the union 1 . ' ' They came away enraged. 

We consider that your representatives were deliberately 
insulted by the owners, who told them that Trade Union 
representatives should be influential men, and not message 
carriers, and that they were not prepared to give way 
one iota. 

So ran the formal report of their failure 2 . But one 
of the agents, at any rate, had been convinced of the 
truth of the owners' gibe. He hastened to gain the 
influence which would be necessary, in any future 

John Wilson was at this time fifty-five years of 
age. The son of a tramping quarryman, he had been 
left at his father's death in the care of a pious and 
respectable uncle, who put the boy to every trade he 
could discover in a vain attempt to keep him out of 
the pits. For until that time the dead quarryman 
alone had disgraced the family by manual labour. 
But the lad, who at the age of eleven could earn in 
a fortnight 305. as a pony putter, was not to be kept 
sweeping the floor and cleaning the windows of a 
small general shop. He ran away from home, and 
after working for several years, mostly at Sherburn 
Hill, he was at the age of i6| allowed to begin to 

1 DM. A. Records. Circular. Ballot, March i6th, 1892: 
strike, 43,056; negotiate, 11,856. 

2 Ibid. Circular, April 1892. 


hew. It was the manager's wise provision for removing 
an evil influence from among the putters, whom once 
already he had persuaded to strike. Though he had 
already engaged himself to be married, in 1856, at 
the age of nineteen, he went to sea, first on a coaster, 
then on an East Indiaman. Four years later, his 
health undermined by a fever caught in the Red Sea, 
he returned to the pits, married, and settled at 
Haswell. He was one of the pioneers in an attempt 
to found a lodge of the union, and it was perhaps 
to escape unpleasant notoriety as an agitator that 
in 1862 he emigrated to America. But mining in the 
United States was no better paid than it was in 
Durham, and the principles of union were in even 
greater disfavour. In 1869 he was back in Haswell, 
his old, drunken, violent habits cast aside, a Methodist 
convert, and a promising local preacher. At the age 
of thirty-one he undertook his own education, in a 
manner strangely reminiscent of Cobbett, for he car- 
ried a small English Grammar into the pit, studied 
it by the light of his lamp, and committed whole 
pages to memory. A second, and this time successful, 
attempt to form a lodge at Haswell lost him his em- 
ployment. He was made secretary of the local co- 
operative store, but he elected to leave, to rid his 
neighbours of his undesirable presence. For he was 
becoming well known as an agitator, association with 
whom was apt to end in loss of employment. He 
went to Wheatley Hill, and there tried his fortune 
as a stationer. Soon he was back at his old task of 
union. From organising a local lodge he passed to 


assisting at parliamentary elections, and from 1875 
to 1885 he was the secretary of the Durham County 
Franchise Association. In 1875, too, he at last con- 
sented to become a minor official of the Durham 
Miners' Association, and since that time he had been 
rapidly rising in the councils of the union 1 . A member 
for parliament, he went in 1887 to America, on a 
deputation to celebrate the signing of a treaty of 
arbitration. There he laid the foundations of his 
reputation as an orator. He was to use his gift of 
speech to win his way to the position which since 
Crawford's death no one had aspired to fill. 

In a speech delivered to a mass meeting in May 1892 
John Wilson told the men of the owners' offer, and 
of his own desperate resolution. " Rather than accept 
it, I will die in the gutter"; they were strong words 
from a respectable member of parliament, but there 
was every prospect that the men would do what their 
leader threatened. For on the funds of the union, 
none too high at the commencement of the strike, 
64,000 men had been supported for nearly ten weeks. 
Not since 1879 had the Durham men, themselves 
always ready to give, been compelled to beg. But 
with a strike pay which with difficulty reached 3$. 
a week 2 it was necessary to issue an appeal for help 3 . 
It was an appeal certain of a good response. The 
miners were fighting for the principle that as work- 

1 J. Wilson, Durham Chronicle, 1909. Autobiography (weekly 

2 DMA. Records, May 28th, 1892. 

3 Ibid. Circular, March 3ist, Appeal to United Kingdom; 
June 8th, Appeal to Trades Unions. 


men they should have a voice in the disposal of the 
goods they produced. They were making their protest 
against the bartering away of wages by the specula- 
tions of middlemen. The Miners' Federation of Great 
Britain, forgetting for a time the quarrel over the 
eight-hour day, sent in all 33,300, though with it 
came a hint that but for the stupid self-sufficiency 
of the Durham men the strike might have been a 
national one. The Northumberland men, who had 
themselves consented to a reduction of 5 per cent., 
voted a levy of is. a man each fortnight, and hastened 
to get it back in a wage advance. From every lodge 
came resolutions, asking for wage demands which 
ranged from 10 to 25 per cent. The owners pleaded 
that the high market price was but an accompani- 
ment of the strike, a temporary and misleading 
phenomenon. Burt issued a circular which restored 
his men to their senses. 

Had we not felt bound, out of respect to the strong 
representations of so many collieries ... we should have 
thought the present a most inopportune time to apply 
for an advance. . . . Our best policy is to do what we can 
do to conserve our trade ... to work so far as we can 
to secure the advantage . . . rather than to make demands 
for which no substantial reason can be assigned 1 . 

It would have been well for the Durham men if 
they had been dealt with so faithfully. They had 
spent their savings. They had drawn their dividends 
from the stores. They had sold their shares. Their 
children were dependent on charity, compelled to 
look to soup kitchens for their food. The extent of 

1 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, April 1892. Hurt's Circular. 


the general poverty is shewn by the wild rumours 
which were spread in the north that the miners vere 
cooking and eating their dogs. But they were not 
yet disposed to treat as beaten men. On May I3th 
they offered to accept a reduction of 7j per cent., 
and to consent to the formation of a wages board 1 . 
The owners refused. They would be content with 
nothing less than 13 J per cent. 2 Prices had fallen so 
low that 15 per cent, would have been a more just 
demand, " and having regard to the deepening depres- 
sion of trade . . . any higher rate of wages . . . would 
lead to serious diminution of the amount of employ- 
ment." Next week the men offered to submit to the 
original demand, for a net reduction of 10 per cent. 3 
Again their offer was refused. They asked for arbitra- 
tion. That too was refused, on the good grounds of 
the men's attitude in the early days of the strike. 
To check the rapid transference of public sympathy 
to the strikers, on May 26th the owners felt it ex- 
pedient to issue a third general letter, in explanation 
of their unrelenting attitude. 
Their demand, said they, 

had been raised, not as a punishment to the men for the 
cost of the strike, but because of a further fall in the 
selling price of coal. The reduction was not big, taking 
into account the allowance of house and coal. The wage 
was still 2i per cent, above that of 1879, yet trade 
prospects were worse. At the end of three months a 
court could be called to justify the continuance of the 
reduction 4 . 

1 DM. A. Records, May i4th, 1892, offer of 7^ per cent. 

2 Ibid. May 23rd, 1892. 

3 Ibid. May 2ist, 1892, offer of 10 per cent. 

4 Owners' third public letter, May 26th, 1892. 


But the refusal to negotiate, coming after twenty 
years of formal bargaining, was the weak point in 
the owners' attitude. It, too, could be defended. It 
was fair tactics to tell the men that after a ten weeks' 
strike, in which they "had determined to resist all 
reduction, even to the drowning of pits," their claim 
to arbitration had very small foundation. But it was 
an innovation, as great as that contemplated by the 
men, to say "that the owners can alone accept the 
responsibility of determining the rate of wages at 
which they can offer employment to their men." 
There was no doubt that the rhetoric of which the 
men made use in default of better reply was in part 
justified 1 . The owners were desirous of pushing their 
victory to a conclusion. 

It was at this point that Bishop Westcott, who 
from the day of his entry into his diocese had shewn 
a deep interest in the affairs of his flock, took the 
step which ended the strike. The men in the pro- 
gressive lodges of the north-east were calling for 
revolutionary action, and were casting out hints of 
a design to seize the pits, re-start the machinery, and 
work the coal for themselves. The bishop, in a letter 
which told both sides of their agreement on two 
points, the need for a wage reduction, and of a wage 
board to settle future disputes, invited owners and 
men alike to Auckland Castle to make a final attempt 
at agreement. Ten per cent, was the reduction he 
thought suitable as a starting-point for discussion. 
But it was the thought of a wages board which 
excited his hopes. 

1 Men's second public letter, May 28th, 1892. 


Such a board would, I feel confident, call out and deepen 
by frank conference that feeling of trust and sympathy 
between master and men through which alone stable 
concord can be maintained in the face of apparent (though 
not real) conflict of material interest 1 . 

It is qne of the rare occasions in which a churchman 
of modern times has meddled with success in the 
worldly fortunes of his flock. There was a little mur- 
muring from the men at this uncalled for interference 
from a great royalty owner. The wealth of the Eccle- 
siastical Commissioners had long been a sore point 
in Durham among the Methodist pitmen. The bishop's 
misapprehension, that the wages board had been 
proposed as a settlement of this dispute, was cor- 
rected by a letter from the men, a letter which 
anticipated the owners' claim to be making a one- 
sided sacrifice by pointing out that the men too 
were making a concession, a wage concession of 10 per 
cent. 2 But the offer of mediation was willingly ac- 
cepted, and the conference, at which the bishop sat 
as chairman, made an end of the strike. "Solely 
on the grounds of the ... prevailing distress" 3 the 
owners consented to re-open the pits, at a wage 
reduction of 10 per cent. Their consent was given 
with the full expectation that in the future wage 
claims would be referred to a body, in some way like 
the bishop's suggested conciliation board. 

Not all the men could be re-engaged. They paid 
dearly for their folly in withdrawing the enginemen. 

1 D.M.A. Records, Bishop Westcott's letter to owners and 
men, May 25th, 1892. 

2 Ibid. May 26th, 1892, men's reply to Bishop Westcott. 

3 Ibid. June ist, 1892, owners' resolution of acceptance 


Many of the pits had fallen into disrepair and for a 
time 20,000 men lay idle, waiting for the reclamation 
of the flooded seams. The old system of the lot decided 
which men should be re-engaged. Not more than 
one hewer in each family was allowed to accept his 
"cavil" 1 . It was some weeks before the men had 
recovered from their bodily weakness so far as to 
be able to do a full day's work. In the three months 
the strike had lasted they had been paid little more 
than 255. a head. Their savings were spent. Many 
of them by accepting poor relief had lost their parlia- 
mentary vote. The funds were exhausted. As Wilson, 
who mourned the destruction of the union strength, 
wrote some years later "the gain would have been 
the greater by the avoidance of the struggle," and 
the men were convinced of the truth of his remark. 
They had entered the struggle, if not by their own 
provocation, by their own desire. They had expected 
a speedy compromise, even if they were not thoroughly 
convinced of the certainty of victory. As one by one 
the offers of the broken men were rejected by the 
owners, they called to memory the last county strike, 
and their hopes revived at the thought that there 
might again be division in the ranks of their op- 
ponents. There was one gain from the strike, it had 
discovered for the men a new leader. Soon ill-health 
gave Patterson excuse to rid himself of a task which 
was beyond his somewhat pedestrian abilities. In- 
sensibly the control of the union passed into the hands 
of John Wilson. 

1 D.M.A. Records, June 3rd, 1892, owners' scheme for re- 



FOR the next fifteen years Durham and North- 
umberland were to be ruled by two men, who 
compelled the obedience of their followers rather by 
the strength of their personality than by the plausi- 
bility of their economic creed. Burt, deserving of 
loyalty from the union which he had created, was 
essentially a man of practical mind. For years he 
had been expounding to the north the folly of 
thinking restriction of output a short cut to pros- 
perity. He was little troubled by theoretic doubts 
of the utility of the capitalist, though perhaps ex- 
perience had discovered to him the function of 
capital in industry. He thought it better to make 
the best of an existing system, and to attain such 
prosperity as a peace assured by goodwill could pro- 
duce, than to court the ruin which might follow from 
undue insistence on labour's rights. Wilson, who had 
less claim to the grateful loyalty of his followers, made 
up for its lack by sheer force of character. He too 
was convinced of the value of industrial peace. His 
imagination had been captured by Bishop Westcott's 
picture of a permanent accord between capital and 
labour. In the weekly gatherings in Auckland Palace, 
at which the bishop collected all the great men of 
the north, he learned to know many- of the coal- 
owners, and in peaceful argument to thrash out the 


problems of society. Wages, as he was always willing 
to admit, were at times not as high as could be wished. 
It was to be deplored that competition in the markets 
brought violent fluctuation in prices and that the un- 
equal balance of supply and demand condemned the 
miners to periodic poverty and unemployment. But 
life had taught him that man could make poor pre- 
tence to infallibility. He could not bring himself to 
believe that by sudden human effort all human mis- 
fortune could be removed. He preferred the stable 
earth of a prosperity which he understood to the 
chance of heaven promised by the prophets of the 
I.L.P. "If ideals were as easily attained as pointed 
to, and declaimed on, we should not long be outside 
the golden gates of millennium." It was a gibe, and 
a telling one, at the oratory of Tom Mann 1 . 

The miner might still labour under a hard lot, but 
Wilson could remember little but steady improve- 
ment. Morals, manners, education, comfort, all that 
went to human happiness, had attained a standard 
which would have seemed a wild dream to the 
prophets of his youth, and Wilson had the courage 
to tell the men that opportunity for improvement 
was greater than was the improvement itself. Was 
the certainty of progress to be exchanged for the 
promise of perfection, and that by a people so little 
ready to help themselves? It was with pardonable 
pride that he saw in himself a model of what every 
young miner might become. Even in the name of 
democracy there was little fault to be found with a 

1 D.M.A. Records, July, 1903. 


system under which a poor boy, whose infancy had 
been divided between the workhouse, the road, and 
the navvy's hut, whose youth had been wasted in 
sinful folly, could rise to the fame, power, and dignity 
which he enjoyed, could become an honorary doctor 
of Durham University, a magistrate, the Chairman 
of the County Council, the secretary of the strongest 
trade society in the kingdom. And he was not alone 
in his success. Across the county border was Burt, 
whose achievements were no less striking, who indeed 
had risen to the rank of Right Honourable, as a minor 
member of Her Majesty's government. 

Armed with the hewers' fear of the Eight Hour 
Act these two men fought successfully against the 
extremists of the Miners' Federation. The theory that 
wages should govern prices, and that a minimum 
wage should assure for every man a standard of life 
sufficiently comfortable, had long ago captivated the 
imagination of the north. It was a folly of the past, 
this theory, which, said they, had found practical 
expression in the limited sliding scales long ago found 
unworkable. The policy of persistent aggression, of 
readiness to strike on any pretext, of action at the 
command of a bare majority, obtained in a moment 
of unwise excitement, had been the policy of the 
patriarchs of the past, in particular of Jude, on the 
wrecks of whose union Crawford and Burt had built. 
Thus the lesson began, and in a tone of patronising 
contempt for the deluded struggles of ill-informed 
youth it continued. 

The miners of the north, if they chose to enter a 


society blind to the lessons of the past, reckless of 
the prosperity of the future, could abandon all hope 
of peace. Without quarrel with their owners they 
would be swept into strike after strike, at the dicta- 
tion of the unstable men of Wales. It was foolish 
for the pitmen to imperil their prosperity, and the 
existence of the unions which it had been so great 
a task to establish, on behalf of the men of the Mid- 
lands, who appealed for help, but would not perfect 
their own local organisations, and gain the victory 
they desired by their own exertions. It seemed un- 
fair that every treasured possession of the north 
should be abandoned, the short hewers' shift, the 
arbitration boards, the whole machinery of wage ad- 
justment and agreement which increased the mutual 
respect of master and man, because the colliers of 
the south, men less educated, men less skilful, of 
weaker moral fibre, had at last partially united, and 
had given their allegiance to an unsound economic 
theory, a theory apparently new and untried, but not 
so new as its advocates claimed, for it had already 
been rejected by the wisdom of the north. 

The first task which confronted Wilson, still while 
Patterson remained in name but the second man in 
the union, was to clear away the wreckage of the 
strike. In December 1892 the Joint Committee, that 
permanent court, half of owners, half of men, before 
which almost every local grievance was eventually 
debated, was again in session, under new rules which 
departed little from those of the past. It began its 
new life with no long list of insoluble, ever-recurring, 

w 19 


quarrels, for all standing disputes were declared to 
have been ended by the strike. But on the reconstitu- 
tion of this court Wilson was reminded of an obstacle 
which stood in the way of all peaceful agreement. 
Partly out of gratitude for generous assistance, partly 
in disappointment at their own defeat, in June the 
Durham men had elected to join the Miners' Federa- 
tion of Great Britain. In December Wilson issued an 
appeal for direction. A recent ballot had disclosed 
a two to one majority against legal action to secure 
an eight-hour day. The Joint Committee was illegal 
under the rules of the Miners' Federation. It was 
impossible at once to fight and to agree, impossible 
to serve two masters, or to halt longer between two 
opinions. Was he to assume that the men of Durham 
wished to withdraw from the Miners' Federation, 
or was he to tell the owners that all attempts at 
conciliation must be abandoned? 1 

Unfortunately, at the moment which Wilson judged 
so opportune for withdrawal from an impossible al- 
liance, fortune dealt him a severe blow. In October 
the Northumberland miners had quietly submitted 
to a wage-reduction of 5 per cent. In February, by 
a large majority, they refused to submit further. 
Argument convinced them of the weakness of their 
position, and a second ballot shewed too small a 
majority for a strike. The agents succeeded in reducing 
the owners' demands from 7^ to 5 per cent., and the 
reduction was made 2 . The revelation of their im- 

1 DM. A. Records, Dec. 7th, 1892. 

2 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Feb. 1893. 


potence convinced the Northumberland men that 
they could no longer remain in isolation. They 
ordered their agents to join the Miners' Federation 1 . 
There had been a similar wage negotiation in Durham, 
as the outcome of which wages had fallen 5 per cent. 
So far had Wilson prevailed that the conduct of the 
bargain had been left to the Durham agents alone, 
though membership of the Miners' Federation im- 
posed on them the duty of referring the matter to 
national decision. As in Northumberland, so in 
Durham, the increase of the depression, and of its 
resulting evil, unemployment and want, revived the 
popularity of the Miners' Federation. 

In July a national conference, destined to become 
famous in trade union history as the "Hen and 
Chickens " conference, was held at Birmingham. The 
grand design was to impose upon the coal-fields a 
uniform wage, and to obtain it, if need be, by a 
"general stop," a strike which was meant rather to 
influence prices than to win the advance directly. 
At this conference the difference in policy between 
the northern unions, and the more constant members 
of the Federation, became plainly apparent. Discord 
ripened into personal quarrel. In August a second 
conference was called at the Palace Hotel, West- 
minster. Burt would not go where his presence was 
unwelcome, and on his persuasion Northumberland 
failed to send a representative. The Durham men 
took their seats, only to be expelled at the open- 
ing of business. For they could not pronounce the 
1 Newcastle (Weekly] Chronicle, July 1893. 



shibboleth. They would neither promise to strike, 
nor to support the Eight Hour Act 1 . 

When the Miners' Federation proclaimed a strike 
Northumberland refused to support it even by im- 
posing a levy. Durham, grateful for past favours, 
collected 6d. a fortnight from each of its members, 
but it refused to join in the stoppage, though the 
ballot of the county had surprised the agents by the 
size of the vote for war 2 . Not until 1907 was national 
unity among the miners to be regained, though more 
than once the quarrel seemed about to be forgotten 
in the mutual sympathy of strikes, or in the dis- 
satisfaction of depression and wage decrease. In 
October mass meetings declared their approval of 
the action of the agents. A vote of confidence took 
the place in Durham of the proposal to discharge 
the whole executive. The triumph of Burt and Wilson 
was complete 3 . 

At once in Northumberland negotiations began, 
which promised to lead to the formation of a concilia- 
tion board similar to the one the bishop had sug- 
gested for Durham. A wage increase of 5 per cent., 
accompanied by one of 7 J per cent, south of the Tyne, 
assured for the proposals a favourable reception 4 . 
The bishop continued his efforts. He hoped that his 
conciliation board would be more than a mere machine 

1 J. Wilson, Hist, of the Durham Miners' Assoc. p. 260. 

2 Durham Chronicle, Sept. ist, 1893. Ballot: 

Work 19,704 
Strike 20,782 

3 Durham Chronicle, Sept. 29th, Oct. 6th, 1893. 

4 Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle, Dec. nth, 1893. 


for recording wage change, that in the end it would 
promote a positive unity. The close accord of OWIHTS 
and men had a strange result, one almost laughable 
in the face of the union agents' respect for competitive 
industry. There was a last attempt by the owners 
to revive the old sales association, and to steady by 
mutual action the fluctuations in coal prices l . A year 
later it failed, as it was bound to fail where there was 
no stronger bond than mutual goodwill to restrain 
capitalist cupidity. But for a time the Durham 
Miners' Association was solemnly attempting to define 
what should be its attitude to black-leg employers, 
colliery proprietors who refused to share in the good 
work of market regulation. In July, with wages 
falling the Northumberland men had lost their 
recent advance the discontented minority again 
thrust itself to the fore. A strike had begun in 
Scotland, and to support it a close alliance with the 
Miners' Federation was suggested. In Northumber- 
land, where Burt was less antagonistic to the minimum 
wage than was Wilson, a definite ballot was taken 
on the proposal. But the men refused to pay the 
price of admission, the promise of support to the 
Eight Hour Act. In Durham the formal assembly 
of the conciliation board was taken as answer suffi- 
cient to the demand. Eighteen owners sat on one 
side, eighteen men on the other nine miners, three 
cokemen, three mechanics, and three enginemen 2 . 

1 Durham Chronicle, Feb. 9th, 23rd, 1894. 

2 DM. A. Records, May I4th, 1895. Durham Chronicle, 
Oct. 5th, 1894. 


But there was still an obstacle in the way of com- 
plete accord in Northumberland. There the negotia- 
tions for a board had broken down over the owners' 
refusal to suffer the appointment of an independent 

Meantime smaller matters took their share of the 
popular interest. The foundations were laid for the 
Burt Hall, the headquarters of the Northumberland 
Miners' Association, a council chamber and a block 
of offices, which stands in a quiet street near the centre 
of Newcastle. Proposals began to be heard of the 
building of homes for aged miners, cottages to which 
in their old age they could retire, and more and more 
the miners turned their attention to local politics. 
To have some voice in the appointment of Justices 
of the Peace became one of the admitted objects of 
the County Political Associations, those bodies which 
had been founded in the campaign for the parlia- 
mentary vote. And the first signs of a new move- 
ment could be seen, a movement which by steady 
persistence was in the end to overthrow both Burt 
and Wilson. Here and there, mostly in the bigger 
colliery villages and in the districts along the banks 
of the Tyne, branches of the I.L.P. began to develop 
a strength which attracted to them the suspicious 
notice of the newspapers. 

1895 told a sad story of unemployment, wage 
decrease, and depression. Except for a strike al 
Hutton Henry it was without incident 1 . The quit 
perhaps meant that the ambitions of the local leader 
1 Durham Chronicle, March ist, 1895. 


were gratified, their activities consumed, by their 
election to the new parish councils. In Durham, of 
the 615 members elected, 370, as a union circular 
triumphantly records, were working men. Twice the 
Durham Conciliation Board authorised a wage reduc- 
tion, in April, of 7^ per cent., in October, of 2j per 
cent. As a slight sop to the men it authorised the 
increase of the basis wage by 7 per cent., a change 
long overdue, for the basis had remained unaltered 
since I879 1 . Its deliberations were shrouded in the 
most profound mystery, its decisions ushered in with 
careful explanation, designed to diminish the con- 
demnation with which they were certain to be over- 
whelmed. But the explanations could not conceal the 
damning fact that conciliation was but a new name 
for wage reduction. Nor, as time wore on, could the 
suspicion be allayed that conciliation was but a 
device for maintaining the hated sliding scale. For, 
in an almost blatant arithmetic proportion, wages 
followed prices in their irregular, but mainly down- 
ward, movement. In June, there was a majority in 
Northumberland against the renewal of conciliation, 
but not the two- thirds majority required by the union 
rules for a change. South of the Tyne, where by 
November 1400 men were idle, and steady employ- 
ment had become little more than a pleasant memory, 
the murmurs of the disaffected were heard again. It 
seemed almost as if no system of wage settlement 
could survive a trade depression. Arbitration and 
sliding scale alike had lost their appeal when they 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. 25th, 1895. 


failed in turn to check a steady wage decrease. The 
men did not see that even strikes had failed, when 
begun on a falling market. To still the murmurs 
Wilson issued a despairing circular. If the men would 
not strike, would not have the board, had lost their 
faith in arbitration, and in sliding scales, what 
system would it please them to suggest? He would 
welcome their solution of a difficulty with which he 
himself could not cope 1 . 

His vehemence failed to quell the uproar. The new 
year brought neither improvement nor hope of im- 
provement. The men, thoroughly dissatisfied, took 
little interest in a ballot held to discover to the agents 
the extent of the opposition to the board. A majority 
ordered its abolition, but so small was the total vote 
that Wilson refused to consider it decisive 2 . In May 
the result of a second vote made plain that the men 
would no longer submit to this new system of wage 
settlement. It had, said they, failed to give satis- 
faction in three material points : in the matter of the 
rent-allowance, of the re-engagement of "sacrificed 
men," men discharged for union activity, and of the 
wage of the "under-average" men, the sick, the 
weak, and the old who could not hew coal as fast as 
their neighbours. In reality the cause of the dissatis- 

1 Durham Chronicle, Dec. 27th, 1895. D.M.A. Records, 
Dec. i gth, 1895. 

2 D.M.A. Records, Jan. I5th, 1896: 

Jan. Feb. 

For Board 11,974 14,894 

Against 29,064 30,586 

Neutral 17,000 20,000 


faction was the failure of the board to prevent wage 
reduction. In June Northumberland too voted for 
the abolition of the board they had finally set up 1 , 
though in Durham the men were already a little 
regretting their precipitate action. During the taking 
of their second ballot the pits at Rainton, one of 
Lord Londonderry's oldest collieries, were closed, and 
the population of an entire village was at a stroke 
deprived of its homes and its employment. Immediate 
protest was made, which met with an answer as ready 
as it was unpleasant. To a public meeting Lord 
Londonderry gave a statement of costs, which shewed 
that for a year he had been running the pit at a 
heavy loss. The price of coal had fallen until it had 
reached a point where the saving even of the whole 
of the labour cost, the offer of the men to work for 
no pay whatever, would have been insufficient. There 
seemed no conceivable way of producing coal at the 
market price 2 . His action had been inevitable, and 
he deserved praise for his generosity rather than 
blame for his hard-hearted action. It was little praise 
he received, for the men were too staggered by the 
revelation of the coal owners' position to make 
comment. Next year there was a bitter quarrel over 
the eviction of the Rainton hewers from their houses. 
In August 1896 Patterson died. Wilson might say 
in his praise that he had done much for the union, 
that he was "solid, rather than showy," but he had 

1 Durham Chronicle, July loth, 1896: 

For Board 3,540 

Against 10,121 
8 Durham Chronicle, March aoth, 1896. 


failed to capture the imagination of his followers. On 
the trivial grounds that there was danger of creating 
a precedent they refused to grant his widow either 
pension or gratuity. Wilson was elected to Crawford's 
place, which had seemed vacant ever since his death. 
The men at last could fairly join issue with their 
agents on the question of the Miners' Federation. 
A ballot was taken, which ordered the resumption of 
friendly relations in the hope of procuring re-ad- 
mission 1 . But in Northumberland the men were still 
obdurate. They ordered the abandonment of the 
system of conciliation, but they refused to sanction 
agreement with the Miners' Federation 2 . 

The Durham men were soon to repent of their 
action. In January, 1897, the agents made complaint 
of the mistrust which compelled each one of them 
"to go about his work with suspicion dogging his 
heels at every step" 3 . In February, with some mis- 
givings, Wilson sent the first subscription to the 
Miners' Federation, remarking to the men that the 
silence of the Federation was taken as giving consent 
to their continued opposition to State interference 
with the hours of labour 4 . As the year advanced a new 
distraction appeared, worthy of the men's attention, 

1 D.M.A. Records, Dec. 1896: 

Membership 58,228 Votes recorded 46,489 
Join Federation 29,842 
Against 16,647 


2 Durham Chronicle, Dec. i8th, 1896 

3 D.M.A. Records, Jan. 1897. 

4 Ibid. Feb. 25th, 1897. 


the Workmen's Compensation Act, but unrest and 
dissatisfaction continued to grow. With every increase 
in rents, and ultimately with every improvement in 
housing, the question of the rent allowance became 
more and more important. It could not be allowed 
to remain at the traditional 2s. a week, when the 
man himself was paying three or four times as much 
for his house. In August the agents found themselves 
compelled to make protest at the unreasonable fre- 
quency of local strikes 1 . There was every sign of 
factious opposition to Wilson when suddenly the 
Miners' Federation thought fit to revive the old 
quarrel which had begun at the "Hen and Chick- 

With the remark that the men were anxious for 
national unity, though in the north the agents were 
not, the secretary of the Federation returned the 
quarterly contribution, saying that it would be ac- 
cepted only if it were returned with a promise of sup- 
port for the Eight Hour Act, and of submission to 
the majority vote of the Federation 2 . It was too good 
a chance to be missed. Wilson replied to the challenge, 
for challenge it plainly was, by a demand for the 
return of the entrance fee, which, said he, the 
Federation had no right to retain if Durham had 
never properly been accepted into its ranks. His 
demand was refused, and the battle was for a second 
time fairly joined. If the Federation counted on a 
revolt from Wilson's rule it counted in vain. The 
threat of the Eight Hour Act secured for him the 

1 DM. A. Records, Aug. I3th, 1897. * Ibid. Aug. 1897. 


firm adherence of the majority of the hewers in the 

Fortune this time fought for Wilson. The trade 
boom which accompanied the Boer War was about 
to begin, and with it a steady wage increase which 
in the end carried the earnings of the men to a point 
unrivalled even by the fabulous prosperity of 1872. 
But in the early months of the year, while the feeling 
of prosperity was not yet reflected in the wage, the 
opposition to Wilson and his cautious policy was as 
loud as ever. A new inner association, the Durham 
Miners' Progressive Federation, was formed to bustle 
the union out of its conservative formalism. It 
organised local meetings, it attacked the leaders, it 
cried out for an increase, both in the actual wage 
and in the basis upon which it was calculated. Wilson 
was too busy to listen to such noisy protest. He was 
making the initial experiments with the Workmen's 
Compensation Act. As soon as it was passed he and 
the owners worked out a scheme, whereby a private 
tribunal was authorised to assess the award to be 
made in each case of accident. For a time this 
tribunal, the Durham Compensation Committee, was 
to command his whole attention, and to deserve his 
almost exaggerated pride. From the first it was an 
unqualified success. There was nothing like it in any 
other district. Bereaved relative and injured miner 
alike could plead their case before a private court; 
there was no appeal to the law to enforce a payment 
as a rule sufficiently well earned. For years to come 
Wilson was to find it one of his most pleasing tasks 



to recite the financial benefits which each month the 
Committee dispensed, to make careful distinction 
between appeals which had failed, and appeals, 
similar, but not exactly alike, which had been ad- 
vanced with success. 

Except for a strike at Sherburn there was little 
open trouble in the later months of the year. Wages 
were beginning to advance, and by Christmas 1898 
an increase of 7^ per cent, had been secured. But 
at a Primitive Methodist Conference, held in October, 
the rise of a new interest was in more than one speech 
blamed for the religious decline which had evidently 
begun 1 . There was a noticeable increase in Socialism. 
That year, at the annual gala, at which the speakers 
were chosen by popular vote, Tom Mann appeared 
upon the platform, the first of a series of intruding 
demagogues who were year after year to make savage 
attack on the union policy 2 . It was curiosity in these 
early days which drew the largest crowd to hear the 
violent oratory of this socialist pioneer. Soon it was 
to be the less critical interest of conviction. Mean- 
time the year had passed quietly enough in Northum- 
berland, where the advance in wage had also begun. 
One relic of the past disappeared, the Miners' National 
Union. As the Miners' Federation grew, the National 
Union became no more than a close alliance between 
its two surviving members, Northumberland and 
Durham. This year Durham withdrew, and the 
" National " was no more. 

1 Durham Chronicle, Oct. I4th, 1808. 

2 Ibid. July 1 7th, 1898. 


1899 was Wilson's year of triumph. After 32 weeks 
the strike at Sherburn was settled. It had cost the 
union 4694 to settle this petty dispute, which arose 
out of the dismissal of two men personally obnoxious 
to the manager 1 . But the strikers, though they were 
ready enough to strike when wages were low, did not 
wish to stand idly by, living on the poor support of 
their strike pay, while in the rest of the coal-field a 
period of unexampled prosperity had so plainly 
begun. In February Wilson was delighted to note 
that the miners were anxious to re-establish the con- 
ciliation board. In September he was able to take 
a holiday in America, secure in his belief that the 
ballot then being taken would end in his favour. It 
did so, and the conciliation board became again the 
official means of wage settlement. In December 
Northumberland thought fit to follow the example of 
its neighbour. The prosperity was to lead to a notable 
experiment in philanthropy. For some years the 
desire to make provision for miners who had been 
compelled by old age to retire from active work, had 
been steadily increasing, both among the owners and 
the men. 

The inception of the idea and its successful accomplish- 
ment were both due to Joseph Hopper, of Felling. For 
years he battled against prejudice and ridicule, but he 
was a man of both intellect and force of character. 
Hopper and his homes were thought a good joke, but 
he kept at it, formed an Association, and in time secured 
the support of the Union and its agents 2 . 

1 DM. A. Records, 1899. 

2 Letter from Mr R. Gray, Chief Clerk to the D.M.A. 


A chance came to purchase an entire village, at a 
recently abandoned colliery. At the small cost of 
25 a house Wilson promised he could provide a 
whole settlement for these worn-out workers 1 . His 
appeal for help was well received. Owners, men, and 
general public alike made certain by their subscrip- 
tions that so good an opportunity should not be lost, 
and in October the Bishop of Durham declared the 
first of the homes open. Soon the chronicle of his 
yearly triumphs, as more and more homes were 
erected in every corner of the county, was to delight 
Wilson more than the story of union victories or the 
benefits of the compensation committee. To the north- 
country Miners' Unions is due the first successful 
attempt to provide on a large scale for the pensioners 
of industry. Before Wilson died there were several 
hundreds of these cottage homes in Durham, each 
with its aged couple, happy that in their declining 
years they had not lost the privilege of the "free 
house and coal" on which the miners' system of 
domestic economy has always been based. 

But again Tom Mann had appeared at the gala, 
to expound the doctrine that Conciliation Boards 
were but palliatives for evils produced by a Capitalist 
system which was itself marked out for destruction, 
and to point out the folly of the masquerade of 
working men as Liberal Members of Parliament. 

In 1900 the high-water mark of prosperity was 
reached. In November wages were 6 per cent, above 
the highest summit of previous prosperity, that of 
1 DM. A. Records, March 1899. 


the boom of 1872, and two of the recurring quarrels 
of the pits had been settled by agreement 1 . In April 
it had been decided that when a hewer was made, 
temporarily, to "put," he should be paid the average 
daily wage of a hewer. And in August a list was 
compiled which denned the classes of men entitled 
to the free house, or its equivalent the rent allowance. 
In Northumberland, by a large majority, the men 
decided to give a further trial of the conciliation 
board, confident that on the last occasion it had not 
been given a fair chance, during the trade depression 
which existed, to demonstrate its advantages. But 
warnings were not wanting that such prosperity could 
not last, and that the height to which wages had 
been raised would only intensify the resentment sure 
to be occasioned by their fall. Tom Mann again ap- 
peared at the gala. In South Shields, at a conference 
which became an annual function, the Durham 
Miners' Progressive Federation 2 , soon to become the 
Durham Miners' Reform Association, was as urgent 
in its demands as in days of misfortune. It wished 
for still greater wage increase, and for a revision of 
the standard by which the wage was assessed. And 
it demanded a more democratic constitution for the 
union. It was not too well pleased at Wilson's steady 
insistence on the benefits of industrial goodwill, and 
the folly of the doctrine of the minimum wage. It 
thought that there was a sufficient body of opinion 
in the county favourable to the doctrine of the 

1 DM. A. Records, Nov. 1900. 
Durham Chronicle, March soth, 1900. 


minimum wage, to make open and official expression 
of other opinions by the agents, unwise, if not dis- 
tinctly improper. Month by month, in the lodge 
meetings, the secretary's letter would be read, and 
month by month it was found to contain more 
definite expression of the old individualistic creed, 
"there never had been, and there never will be, a 
system. . .which can fix wages at a point and say 
. . .there they shall remain 1 ." It was a solemn re- 
proof to those lodges of the north-east which at each 
quarter day made appeal to be allowed to join the 
Miners' Federation, a federation whose president was 
beginning to boast that he would win by force what 
persuasion could not obtain. Pickard, who was in 
the Miners' Federation an autocrat only less despotic 
than Wilson in his own county, began to warn the 
Durham men that he would be compelled to provoke 
a schism in a union which stood so stubbornly in the 
way of progress. 20,000 men, said he, would at his 
word refuse any longer to obey Wilson's commands. 
Next year, in February, the first wage reduction 
took place. It was but ij per cent., little enough 
in itself, but it was plainly the signal for more. 
By the end of April, both in Northumberland and 
Durham, wages had fallen over 12 J per cent., and 
they fell almost as much more in the course of the 
year. Wilson thought fit to forestall the inevitable 
request, that a return should be made to the Miners' 
Federation. In February he made reply to the ad- 
vocates of the Eight Hour Act that they could have 

1 DM. A. Records, Nov. 1900. 
w 20 


had their shortened day in 1893 had they not refused 
the northern unions' suggestions for an act which 
allowed local option 1 . As to Smillie's prophecy, that 
some day the miner would enjoy a minimum wage 
of los. a day, Wilson could only gasp in amaze. 
"Ideals are good things, but they should have at 
least an element of probability about them" 2 . Mann 
was not allowed such an uninterrupted liberty of 
speech as in the past. After a condemnation of the 
mine-owners as "the biggest thieves in creation," and 
an exhortation to the men to work for the day when 
the mines should be the property of the nation, he 
was stopped by the chairman, House, who told him 
that he had broken faith with Mr Wilson, by the 
extravagance of his language. But the sympathy of 
the crowd was with Mann. "It was no secret," said 
he, "that I have never been to the gala by the wish 
of the executive . . . and that I should not be here 
if the officials could prevent it" 3 . 

It was some consolation to the old leader, who saw 
his popularity slipping away, to be able to watch the 
Northumberland men, as they too began to erect 
homes for their aged members. It perhaps was some 
relief to quarrel with his ancient respected enemy, 
Pickard, the Yorkshireman who ruled the Miners' 
Federation. One friend had gone, Bishop Westcott, 
the "Pitman's Bishop," the scholar at whose death 
the union could remark with all official gravity " there 

1 DM. A. Records, Feb. 1901. 

2 Ibid. May 1901. 

3 Durham Chronicle, July 2oth, 1901. 



is not a single miner in the whole of the county who 
will not realise that he has lost a friend" 1 . 

In 1902 the wage decrease was still continuing and, 
as usual, it was bringing its usual crop of troubles. 
Among them was the request that the miners' leaders 
should leave the Radical party, and join with the 
independent labour men, who, as Wilson told Keir 
Hardie, were less independent than was any one of 
the old Radicals. He himself was 

not one who preached the doctrine of class interests. He 
would not vote for a working man who represented the 
working class interests only, and he did not think that 
a man should go to parliament for that, and put himself 
on a level with the landowner and the aristocrat 2 . 

Next year, in the spring, a strike of the American 
miners brought a sudden, and completely unexpected, 
wage advance. The miners were a little alarmed at 
the recent improvements in the efficiency of the coal 
cutting machines, and watchful of any infringement 
by a new class of workmen on the traditional privi- 
leges of the hewers. In June they were formally 
giving approval to the doctrine of the living wage, 
and the defeat of Wilson was plainly only a matter 
of a few months. It was deferred for a while by a new 
ballot on the Eight Hour Act, when by a substantial 
majority the hewers of the north shewed that they 
still thought union effort a more suitable way to 
industrial change than the interference of the State. 
Local disputes, provoked by the fall in the wage, 
a recrudescence of the old trouble of restriction of 

1 DMA. Records, July 1901. 
* Ibid. Oct. 1902. 


output, and a general absence of confidence, caused 
the Joint Committee to suspend its sittings during 
the early weeks of IQO4 1 . The Miners' Reform Associa- 
tion was steadily exhorting the union to put its pride 
away, and join with the Federation in the attempt to 
obtain a minimum wage. In April, as Wilson said 
by I.L.P. influence, the first of the votes for the 
abolition of the conciliation board was passed. 
Wilson's outcry against Chinese labour, and the op- 
pression of the Coal Tax, had failed to divert the new 
politicians from matters which they considered to be 
of greater urgency, and he became convinced that if 
the Socialists were as yet in a minority the day of 
their triumph was at hand. 

1905 and 1906 passed, with the same tale of resolu- 
tions against conciliation, and against political al- 
liance with the old parties. Northumberland quietly 
joined the Miners' Federation. Wages were again on 
the increase, but the pace of the improvement did 
not satisfy the eager minds of the reformers. The days 
had gone when an addition of ij per cent, to the 
basis wage could arouse feelings of satisfaction. The 
list of speakers at the gala more and more plainly 
witnessed that Wilson's hold on the county was no 
longer unquestioned. He had changed Tom Mann for 
Keir Hardie. In November, 1907, a little more than 
a year after Northumberland had made its decision, 
the Durham Miners' Association formally applied for 
admission to the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. 
It made unconditional surrender. Eight Hour Acts, 

1 D.M.A. Records, Feb., June, 1904. 


Minimum Wage demands, and strikes might conn- in 
turn. The local independence of the north was at an 
end. Henceforth neither in Burt Hall, nor in Durham 
City were the fortunes of the northern pitmen to be 
decided. The centre of interest shifts to Russell 
Square, to the offices of the Miners' Federation of 
Great Britain. 



A collection of financial statements, beginning in 1875, 
minutes of committees, minutes of councils, books of 
courts of arbitration, and handbills and leaflets. In 
particular there is a valuable series of " Monthly Circulars, ' ' 
mostly written by Crawford and Wilson, summarising 
recent progress, past history, and future policy, whose 
object seems to have been mainly educational. These 
records are kept in the Miners' Hall, Red Hill, Durham, 
but many of them have been issued to the local press. 


(a) The Durham Chronicle. A weekly newspaper, 
whose files begin in 1823. A Liberal journal, with a Whig 
interest, it gradually turned into a definitely Radical 
party newspaper. Until the '6o's it had the usual middle 
class bias against the miners, but by degrees it began to 
take their side, and in the days of Crawford, and of 
Wilson in particular, it was almost the official journal of 
the Miners' Association, among whose members it found 
its main circulation, and of whose officials it was the 
political supporter, as local Liberal members of Parlia- 

(b) The Newcastle (Weekly) Chronicle. A paper less 
directly interested in mining, used to supplement the 
Durham Chronicle. In the iSyo's and '8o's, in the hands 
of Joseph Cowen, it was a most remarkable paper, with a 
very individual political and social outlook. In those 
years it made a definite attempt to assist the spread of 
education among the local industrial peoples, printing 
articles in regular series on every subject, from arith- 
metic to elementary chemistry. In 1882-3 there was a 
notable fortnightly contribution by Lloyd Jones, in ex- 


position of his somewhat peculiar economic ideas, which 
provoked violent controversial replies from men of all 
classes. Joseph Cowen made great efforts to maintain 
an interest in local tradition and history, printing 
reminiscent interviews with every local patriarch who 
could be discovered, in particular with the survivors of 
the Chartist movement, and the trade union activity of 
the earlier years. 

(c) The Durham City and County News. A weekly 
newspaper, calling itself the "official organ of 35,000 
miners," which lived for two years, 1870 to 1872, and 
in which there were a great many articles by Crawford. 
It died, probably as a result of the change in the attitude 
of the Durham Chronicle. 

(d) Incomplete files, in the late eighteenth century, 
of the Newcastle Courant, the Newcastle Journal, the 
Newcastle Advertiser, the Newcastle Intelligence, and the 
Tyne Mercury. 


Children's Employment Commission, 1842. 
Report of the Select Committee of the House of 

Lords on the Prevention of Accidents in Mines, 

Report of Commissioners to enquire into the state of 

Popular Education, 1861. 
Final Report of the Commission on Labour Laws, 

Report (Preliminary) of the Royal Commissioners 

appointed to enquire into accidents in Mines, 1886. 
Report of Royal Commission on Mining Royalties, 


Report of Royal Commission on Labour, 1892-94. 
Report of Departmental Committee to enquire into 

the probable economic effects of a limit of eight 

hours on the working day of the coal miner, 1907. 
Report of the Royal Commission on Mines, 1907-8. 
Reports of the Commissioners appointed under the 


provisions of the Act 5 and 6 Victoria, to enquire 
into the operation of that act, and the state of the 
population in the mining districts. (Tremenheere), 

Reports of H.M. Inspectors of Mines, annual since 

Various Statutes, Bills proposed, etc. 

Various statistical reports on Unions, Strikes, Hours 
of Labour, etc. 

(4) BOOKS. 

A most Pleasant description of Benwell Village. Q. Z. 


The Oppressed Man's Outcry. J. Hedworth. 1651. 
An Exhortation to Christian Love. Sermon. 1720. 
Essay on Burns. Edward Kentish. 1817. 
The Compleat Collier, or the Whole Art of Sinking, 

Getting, and Working Coal Mine, as is now in Use 

in the Northern Parts, especially about Sunderland. 

J.C. 1708. 
Plan and Report of the Greymare Colliery. 1761. 

Newcastle Antiquarian Society Library. 
Voyages Metallurgiques, ou Recherches et Observations 

sur les Mines. Gabriel Jars. 1781. 
View of the County of Durham. J. Bailey. 1810. 
The Funeral Sermon of the Felling Colliery Sufferers. 

Rev. John Hodgson. 1815. 
Pamphlet on Proposed Accident Insurance. Thomas 

Whittell. 1815. 
The Newcastle Songster. A choice collection of Songs. 


Rules of Newcastle upon Tyne Miners' Society. 1812. 
A Treatise on the Coal Mines of Durham and Northum- 
berland. J. H. H. Holmes. 1816. 
Tour of Scotland and the Four Northern Counties. 

William Cobbett. 1833. 
Fossil Fuel. John Holland. 1835. 
An Historical View of the Coal Trade. Matthias Dunn. 



A Treatise on the Winning and Working of Collieries. 
Matthias Dunn. 1848. 

Gatherings from the Pit Heaps, or the Aliens of Shiny 
Row. Coleman Collier (James Everett). 1861. 

A Few Brief Observations, illustrations and Anecdotes 
respecting Pitmen in a Northern Colliery Village. 
(Anon.) 1862. 

The Progress of the Working Classes. Lloyd Jones (and 
Ludlow). 1867. 

The Coal Mines. James Mather. 1868. 

A Choice Collection of Tyneside Songs. Joseph Wilson. 

The Pitman's Pay. Thomas Wilson. 1872. 

The Miners of Northumberland and Durham. R. Fynes. 

Life and Correspondence of T. S. Duncombe. T. Dun- 
combe. 1868. 

The Conflicts of Capital and Labour. George Howell. 

Accidents in Mines, their causes and prevention. Alan 
Bagot. 1878. 

Coals and Colliers. S. J. Fitzgerald. 1881. 

'Treatise on Ventilating and Working Collieries. J. A. 
Ramsay. 1882. 

Sliding Scales in the Coal Industry. J. C. Munro. 

The Northumbrian Pitman. R. F. Wheeler. 1885. 

Explosions in Coal Mines. W. M. Atkinson. 1886. 

Glossary of Terms used in the Coal Trade of Northum- 
berland and Durham. G. C. Greenwell. 1888. 

History of the Chartist Movement. R.G.Gammage. 1894. 

A Sketch of the History of the Coal Trade of Northumber- 
land and Durham. Mark Archer. 1897. 

Coal Pits and Pitmen. R. N. Boyd. 1895. 

The Annals of Coal Mining and the Coal Trade. 
R. Galloway. 1904. 

Capital and Labour in Coal Mining during the Past 
200 years. J.B.Simpson. 1900. 



Coal Cutting by Machinery. S. F. Walker. 1902. 
The Company of the Hostmen of Newcastle. Surtees 

Society. 1901. 
Dusty Diamonds. True Tales from Pit Life. David 

Addy. 1900. 
Papers Relating to the History of the Coal Trade and 

the Invention of the Steam Engine. R. L. Galloway. 

History of the Durham Miners' A ssociation. J . Wilson. 


Wesley's Journal. 1909. 
The Cranstons. 1909. 
Davie Graham. Pitman. 1904. 

Elsie Magregor. 1904. I By Ramsay Guthrie. 

Brotherhood Stories. 1916. > (Novels with very 

The Canny Folks o' Coal Vale. 

strong local colour.) 


Black Dyke. 1904. 

Colliery Accounts. H. G. Judd and J. Mann. 1909. 

Profits and Wages in the British Coal Trade. T. Richard- 
son and J. A. Walbank. 1911. 

Colliery Working and Management. H. F. Bulman 
and R. A. S. Redmayne. 1906. 

Tht Collier's Wedding. Edward Chicken. 1764. 


Alfreton, 38 

Aged Miners' Homes, 294, 


America: Mackintosh to, 25; 
Crawford to, 181; emigra- 
tion to, 200, 213; Wilson to, 
279, 280, 302 

Apostles, The Twelve, 79, 224 
Arbitration : 

In Durham: (i) Russell 
Gurney, 162-166; (2) 
170-174, 176; (3) Judge 
Bradshaw, 188-190; (4) 
Lord Derby, 190-193; 
(5) "The Deputies," 209- 


In Northumberland: (i) 
176; (2) Kettle on wages, 
168-169; (3) Kettle on 
working conditions, 174; 
(4) 172-176; (5) Judge 
Fairplay, 179; (6) Her- 
schell, 183 

Arbitration: by Justices of 
Peace, 144; local, 153, 161 
et passim', defects of, 177; 
credit of, 240, 242, 282, 
295; Miners' Federation of 
Gt Britain, attitude to, 

Ashington, 167, 247 
Ashley, Lord, 86, 87 
Atkinson, R., 105 
Auckland Castle, 283 
Auckland Palace, 286 
Auckland Park, 221 

Backworth, 30, 132 
Bakkus, R., 4 
Baltic, the, 175 
Bearpark, 185, 186, 208 

Beasley, Mr, 66, 67, 72 

Bedlington, 31 

Bensham, 49 

Benwell, 13 

Bessemer, 196 

Bible, the, 58, 59, 60, 205 

Birmingham, 291 

Bishop Auckland, 24, 60 

Black Fell, 109 

Black, Geordy, 96 

Black-legs: lead-miners, 34, 
38; Derbyshire, 39; Irish, 
76, 200; fate of, 80; Cor- 
nish, 128-131; Stafford- 
shire, 148, 217 

Blenkar Will, 18 

Blythe, 46, 127, 131, 146, 
223, 254 

Boer War, the, 300 

Boldon Fell, 35, 46 

Bolkow Vaughan, Messrs, 
172, 221, 233 

Bowes and Partners, 248 

Bradlaugh, John, 199 

Bradshaw, Judge, 190 

Brancepeth, 115, 118, 120, 
149, 217, 251 

Brandlings, the, 36 

Brandon, 222 

Bright, John, 116 

Broomside, 174 

Brown, Willy, 150, 182 

Bryson, 182, 183, 201, 245 

Buddie, John, 30, 37, 51, 84, 

Bunning, Mr, 170-175; 189; 

196, 207 

Burdon, Mr, 143 
Burt, Thomas : founds union, 

124-7, 2 54; early work, 

131-135; speech, 161; ar- 


bitrator in Durham, 162; 
policy : mistaken financial, 
180, strikes, 144, 261, re- 
striction, 156, 157,205, 286, 
Eight Hour Act, 245, 246, 
249, 268, 288, 292 ; prestige, 
182, 236, 238, 240, 256, 
292; conduct of county 
strike, 1 84 ; political career, 
198-200, 233, 246, 255, 288 ; 
at Leeds, 226; estimate of, 


Burt Hall, 294, 309 
Butty system, 1 1 

Carbonarius, 37 

Castle Eden, 142, 143, 144, 
235, 275 

Chapman, Dr, 83 

Chartists, the: Hepburn's con- 
nexion, 33, 43 ; influence of, 
54, 55, 66, 197; Methodist 
dislike of, 60; imprisoned, 
61; extent, 103-104 

Chaytor, Sir Wm, 66 

Chester-le-Street, 18, 24, 203 

Children: hours of, 31, 32, 
108, 127, 133, 141; em- 
ployment of, investigated, 
86-89, forbidden, 89, de- 
scribed, 92-101; protected 
by Education Act, 101 

Chirton, 31 

Christmas, 16, 107, 184 

Clanny, Dr, 50, 84 

Cobbett, William, 27, 33, 93, 


"Cock, The," 30 

Colliers of United Association 
of Northumberland and 
Durham, the, 28, 128 

Commons, House of: Buddie's 
evidence, 30 ; committee on 
lamps, 51, 85-86; Mines' 
Regulation Bill, 133; Burt 
elected, 198; Crawford's 
value in, 255 

Commonwealth, the, 5 

Compleat Collier, The, 5 

Conciliation: origin of, 283- 
284; in Northumberland, 
292, 294, 298, 302, 304, 
308; in Durham, 293, 296, 
302, 308; method of, 295; 
Mann's views on, 303 

Consett Iron Company, the, 

Co-operation : Mackintosh's 
efforts, 25; Cramlington, 
113, 130; mining venture, 
1 80; Crawford's post, 187 

Cornishmen, 129, 130 

Cornwall, county of, 74, 129 

Cowen, Joseph, 162 

Cowpen, 31, 126, 254 

Coxlodge, 35 

Cramlington, 34, 91, 113, 127, 

Cranky, Bob, 19 

Crawford, William: strikes, 

123, J52-I53, 212, 216- 

219, 252; life of, 126-127, 
146-147, 160, 252-254; 
discipline of , 156, 159, 178- 
179, 182, 188, 222, 273; 
arbitrator, 164-165, 172, 
175, 192-194; emigration, 
181; M.P., 199, 232-233; 
restriction of output, 207, 
227; Miners' National 
Association, 226, 230; 
M.F.G.B., 245-246, 249; 
successors, 258-259, 276, 

Davis, Captain, 24 

Davy, Sir Humphry, 50, 51, 


Dent, Mark, 62, 74 
Deputies, the, 92, 179, 197, 


Derby, Lord, 190, 193 
Derbyshire, 39, 132 
Disraeli, 200 
Dorset, county of, 128 
Duncombe, Slingsby, 108 



Dunn, Matthias, 36, 43, 104, 
and numerous footnotes 

Durham: bishop of, i, 303 
(see also Westcott) ; city, 
31, 115, 142, 149, 155, 162, 
177; Miners' Association, 
144, 146, 148, 157, 179, 
187, 204, 206, 230, 256, 
280, 292; Miners' Hall, 149, 
158, 1 77, 255; County Joint 
Committee, 185, 207, 230, 
250, 258, 265, 289, 290, 
308; County Franchise As- 
sociation, 198, 214, 249, 
280, 294; County Council, 
204, 288; Miners' Federa- 
tion, 209, 262, 271, 272, 
277; Coal Trade Associa- 
tion, 252; University, 288; 
Conciliation Board, 295; 
Parish Councils, 295 ; Com- 
pensation Committee, 300; 
Miners' Progressive Fed- 
eration, 300, 304, 308; 
Political Union (see County 
Franchise Association) 

Earsdon, 103 

Ecclesiastical Commissioners, 

Edinburgh, 243, 245 

Education, 44, 56, 58, 81, 104 

Education Act, the, 101 

Eight Hour Act, 243-247, 
288, 292, 299, 305, 307 

Elizabeth, Queen, 2, 4 

Emigration, 181, 213 

Employers' Liability Act, 
200, 210, 229 

England, 18, 136 

Esh, 265 

Evictions, 76-77, 248: Sea- 
ham, 109, 212; Cramling- 
ton, 130; Wearmouth, 148; 
South Moor, 209; South 
Medomsley, 235; Silks- 
worth, 261-265; Rainton, 

Fairplay, Judge, 179 

Fatfield, 31 

Fawdon, 40 

Felling, the, 43, 44, 236, 302 

Fenwick, 199, 233, 240 

Finchale, 2 

Forest of Dean, 151 

Forster, Nicholas, 42 

Fortin, Father, 215, 216, 218 

Framwellgate Moor, 123 

France, 253, 269 

Free House System, 13, 29, 
41, 303; defects of, 81, 120, 
133; friction caused by, 
190-193, 251-252, 304; 
commutation, 228, 230, 
250-252, 304 

Fynes, Richard, 80, 109, 201, 
240, 245, and footnotes 

Gala, the Durham, 155, 162; 

Tom Mann attends, 301, 

303-304, 306 
Gladstone, Mr, 200, 203 
Gloucestershire, 151 
Gordon, General, 200 
Gosforth, 36 
Gurney, Russell, 162 

Hardie, Keir, 307, 308 
Harney, Julian, 54 
Hartley, in, 254 
Haswell, 152, 279 
Hatfield, Bishop, 2 
Hazelrigg, 5 
Hebburn, 235 
Heckles, William, 69, 70, 144, 


Hedworth, J., 5 

"Hen and Chickens" con- 
ference, 291 

Henry III, 2 

Hepburn, Thomas : founds 
Union, 25 ; companions, 32, 
223; policy, 32, 35, 74, 79; 
conducts strike, 38-41; 
later career, 43-44 

Herschell, Baron, 183 


Hetton, early union activity, 
25. 3. 32-33. 37; attack 
on black-leg, 40; strikes, 
40, 60, 75, no, 207, 249, 

Hobbes, John, 15 

Home Rule, 199, 202 

Home Secretary, 71 

Hopper, Joseph, 302 

Homer, 65 

Horton, 240 

Hull, 30 

Hutton Henry, 294 

I.L.P., 287, 294, 308 

Ireland, 74 

Irish: black-legs, 76, 78; in- 
crease of, 81; low wages, 
103, 140-141; unpopular, 

James I, 4 

J arrow Slake, 42 

Johnson, 264 

Joicey, 203 

Joint Committee; see under 

Jude, Martin, 61, 108, 114, 

224, 288 
Justices of the Peace, 20, 143, 

144, 265, 294 

Kaye, Dr, 3 

Keel Row, The, 17 

Kenton, 36 

Kettle, Rupert, 168, 174, 182 

Lambton, 33 

Lamp, the Davy, 29, 84, 85 

Lancashire, 38, 112, 114 

Land League, the, 200 

Lee, J., 216, 219 

Leeds, 127, 225 

Leifchild, J. R., 89-101 

Littleburn, 152, 252 

Lloyd Jones: in arbitration, 
162, 172, 174, 192; stands 
for Parliament, 203; eco- 

nomic doctrines, 205, 212, 
226, 227, 253 

Local Government, 204, 288, 
294. 295 

London: Lord Mayor of, 4, 
82; dockers, 21, 203, 240; 
coal market, 26, 42, 63, 
107, 165; merchants' char- 
ity, 83 ; committee visit, 1 80 

Londonderry, First Marquess 
of: mine owner, 32, 46; 
opposes union, 33, 39-40, 
41, 75; against mine in- 
spection, 88-89 ', pensions 
disabled, 105 ; Love follows 
example, 108 

Londonderry, Lord, 262, 263, 


Love, 115-119, 222, 252 
Low Main, 49 

Macdonald, Mr, 155 

Macintosh, 25 

Malicious Injuries to Pro- 
perty Act, 22, 82 

Manchester, 147 

Mann, Tom, 287, 301, 303, 
304, 306, 308 

Martineau, Harriet, 57 

Marx, Karl, 203, 227 

Master and Servants Act, 82 

Mather, J., 85 

Mechanics Association, 169- 

Methodism, 56, 81, 103, 255 

Methodists, the : Primitive, 
3. 57. 3 OI > education as- 
sisted by, 58, 204 ; Chartists 
opposed by, 60, 66; at 
Seghill, no; co-operation 
assisted, 113; Mr Love a, 
115, 119; economy, 141; 
numbers declining, 205; at 
Ushaw Moor, 217; convert 
Wilson, 279; attitude to 
bishop, 284 

Midlands, the, 46, 107, 226, 
245, 247, 289 



Mill, John Stuart, 205, 255 

Miner's Advocate, 66, 74, 118 

Miners' Federation of Great 
Britain: relations with 
Northumberland, 240-241, 
260-261, 290-293, 308; 
policy of, 242-247, 288- 
289; relations with Durham, 
260-261, 281, 290-292, 
298-299, 305, 308; growth 
kills Miners' National, 301 

Miners' National Union, 141- 
142, 157, 187, 225, 230, 301 

Mines' Inspection, 86, 104- 
105, 108 

Mines Regulation Bill, the, 
133, 163, 156; men's atti- 
tude to, 147, 155, 165, 200 

Monkwearmouth : deep work- 
ings, 45; strikes, 144-145, 
148, 170, 258-260; three- 
shift system, 247, 258-260 

Morley, Lord, 237 

Morpeth, 183, 198 

Murton, 266 

Netherton, 31 

Newcastle-upon-Tyne : cor- 
poration, 2, 4; shipping 
trade, 2, 3; Company of 
Hostmen, 3, 4, 26, 82; 
siege of, 3; St Mary's 
Church, 4 ; newspapers, 20, 
103; mayor of, 28, 31; 
Town Moor, 28, 46, 78, 
108, 182; strike meetings, 
62, 74, 120, 134; co- 
operative experiments, 113; 
Miners' Hall, 294 

Newcomen engine, 9, 10, 45 

Newfield, Rev. W., 24 

Non-Unionist question, 34, 
152, 170, 208, 220-222 

North, Roger, 5 

Northumberland: coal mea- 
sures, 45 ; export trade, 48, 
269; strikes, 61, no; im- 
migration, 78 ; Leifchild in, 

89; yearly bond, 114; atti- 
tude of, 121, 123, 182, 197, 
223, 236; Joint Committee, 
158; wages, 159-160, 185, 
206, 213, 238, 250-251, 
260, 281, 290, 301-304; 
hours, 142,161; arbitration 
in, 167, 174, 175, 176, 179; 
politics, 199, 202-203; 
Miners' Federation, atti- 
tude to, 242, 247, 290-293, 
298, 308; conciliation in, 
292, 293, 295, 297, 304 
Northumberland Miners' Mu- 
tual Confident Association : 
founded, 123-125, 144; 
officials, 126, 201 ; relations 
with M.F.G.B., 261 

Owen, Robert, 112, 203, 255 

Palmer, J. Hinde, 210 

Parker, 121 

Parliament, the Long, 3 

Patterson, William : succeeds 
Crawford, 252, 256; policy, 
259, 273 ; illness and death, 
285, 297-298 

Pelton, 44 

Percy Main, 17 

Peterloo, 55 

Pickard, 305, 306 

Plato, 104 

Plessey, 18 

Pritchard, 160 

Privy Council, the, 2, 219 

Provident Fund, the: men's 
objections to, 83; formed, 
1 06, 1 1 1-112; strikes, effect 
on, 113; employers' lia- 
bility, effect of, 210, 229 

Psalms, the, 59 

Radicals, the, 202, 203, 255, 


Rainton, 297 
Ramsay, Tommy, 149, *53. 




Ranters, the: work of, 57; 
influence of, 75, 79; edu- 
cation assisted by, 96, 103; 
Salvation Army supplants, 
264; see also Methodists 

Recognition, 39, 122, 126, 

134. H9 

Red Sea, the, 279 

Restriction of output: early 
form of, 5, 26; attempted, 
34, 39, 124, 206-207, 2 53; 
advocated, 64, 150, 205, 
226, 255, 307-308; wages 
concealed by, 79; opposed, 
123, 136, 152, 156-157, 
162, 172, 212, 227; owners 
complain of, 165, 171, 248, 

Revolution, the French, 25 

Rhymer, E., 141 

Richardson, 146 

Roberts, Mr (the pitman's 
attorney-general) : appears 
in Durham, 66-67; Thorn- 
ley case, 69-71 ; skill of, 72 ; 
judgment on strike, 78; 
assists Slingsby Duncombe, 
1 08; Seaham case, no; 
Lancashire visit, 114; Castle 
Eden case, 142-145 

Robinson, 215-218 

Rough Lea, 248 

Royalties, 193, 204, 236-237, 

Russell Square, 309 

Ryhope, 178 

Salvation Army, 264 

Scotland, 46, 293 

Seaham: founded, 46; strikes 
at, 109-110, 153, 154, 236; 
restriction at, 208; pit ex- 
plosion, 209-211, 229 

Seaton Delaval, 132 

Seghill, 60, no, 168 

Sermon on the Mount, the, 59 

Shadons Hill, 43, 46, 71 

Sheffield, 38 

Sheldon, 126 

Sherburn Hill, 100 

Sheriff Hill, 148 

Shetland, 100 

Shotton, 142, 143 

Silksworth, 252-253, 261 

Sliding scale: adopted, 181, 
193, 222, 231; regard for, 
182-184, I 96; disregard of, 
186; disliked, 197, 213, 223, 
229; defects of, 224, 288, 
295; effects of, 231, 249; 
abandoned, 237, 248, 250- 


Smillie, Robert, 306 
Socialism, 104, 203-204, 212, 

Socialists, the, 240-241, 301, 

Socialists, the Christian, 112, 

162, 255 
S.P.C.K., 103 
South Biddick, 13 
South Medomsley, 234, 235 
South Moor, 209 
South Shields, 36, 37, 85, 304 
Speddings, the, 12, 50 
Spennymoor, 121, 141 
Staffordshire, 217 
Steam Coal Association, 134 
Stevenson, R., 51 
Sunderland, 18, 50, 74 
Sunderland Society, 51, 52, 

83, 84, 105, 108 

Tantobie, 149 

Tees, the, 46 

Tempest, 27, 75 

Thames, the, 2, 3 

Thornley : Chartist centre, 
60; prosecutions, 68-71, 
139, 145, 148; strikes, 144, 
161, 170; closed down, 174, 


Tories, the, 198 
Tremenheere, Simon, 81, 100, 

104, and many footnotes 
Trimdon Grange, 229 



Tudhoe, 148, 233 

Tyne, the: shipping, 3, 16; 

importance declines, 247 
Tyne Main, 40 

Union of Miners of Great 

Britain and Ireland, 64 
University extension, 204 
Urpeth, 44 
Ushaw Moor, 214-217, 220, 

Usworth, 236, 249 

fane, Sir Harry, 5 
Vane Tempest, 27, 75 
Vend, limitation of, 26 
Victoria Hotel, 114 

Waldridge, 34, 35 

Wales: black-legs from, 38, 

74; migration from, 46; 

competition of, 168, 223; 

wage system, 179; union, 

246-247, 289 
Walgrave, John de, 2 
Wallsend, 9, 45 
Wansbeck, 199 
Wardle, Samuel, 30 
Waterloo, 49 
Watts, James, 57 
Wear, 23, 46, 109 
Wesley, John, 18 
Wesley ans, the, 57; see also 


Westcott, 283, 286, 303, 306 
West Holywell, 66 
West Jesmond, 31 

Westminster, 183, 193, 224, 

Westoe, 214, 216 

Wheatley Hill, 279 

Whitehaven, i j 

Wilkinson, 179 

Willington, 115-123 

Wilson, John: M.P., 199, 200, 
233, 264, 307; restriction, 
opposes, 207; minimum 
wage, 246, 304, 305, 306; 
character, 254, 286, 288; 
strikes, 265, 285; early 
career, 278-280; success of, 
288, 302; task of, 289-300; 
Miners' Federation of Great 
Britain, 290-292, 296, 298, 
305, 308; Compensation 
Committee, 300; Aged 
Miners' Homes, 303 

Wingate, 65 

Wolverhampton, 148 

Women, 13, 89, 91 

Woodlands, 207 

Workmen's Compensation, 

2OO-2OI, 2IC2II, 229, 


Wynyard, 263 

Yearly Bond: early form of, 
13,29,62; resistance to, 24, 
114, 123, 145, 146, 150; 
abandoned, 71, 151, 254; 
revival of, 114, 123; strength 
of, 138-141; improved, 

Yorkshire, 38, 147, 159, 250